Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs transgender athlete bill into law on first day of Pride Month

On Tuesday, the first day of Pride Month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that bans transgender girls and women from competing on female sports teams at the high school and college level.

DeSantis appeared at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville to sign the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which was introduced by Republican State Senator Travis Hutson in February.

The law states that women and girls must play on the sport teams of the “biological sex” on their birth certificate. Therefore, a transgender girl whose birth certificate denotes her “biological sex” as male, cannot play on a girls’ sports team. 

The law specifies that athletic teams or sports “designated for males, men, or boys may be open to students of the female sex.” but athletic teams or sports “designated for females, women, or girls may not be open to students of the male sex.” Therefore, if a transgender boy wants to play on a boys’ team, he can.

During a press conference at the academy, girls who attend the school stood on stage behind DeSantis. “We believe in the state of Florida protecting the fairness and integrity of women’s athletics,” he said. “I can tell you that in Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports and boys are going to play boys’ sports. We’re going to make sure that that’s the reality.”

The governor said the bill protects female-born athletes from competing against athletes who are physically superior to them. “We’ve seen, particularly in other states, you’d have these blatantly unfair track races and all these other things, where these girls train and then they end up not being able to advance to compete at state or what have you,” he said, apparently saying transgender athletes were at an advantage.

Republican State Senator Kelli Stargel, who championed the bill, said during the press conference that it is “very simply about making sure that women can safely compete, have opportunities and physically be able to excel in a sport that they trained for, prepared for and work for.”

In regard to singing the bill on June 1 — the start of Pride Month that celebrates the LGBTQ community — DeSantis said: “It’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness and women’s sports.” The bill goes into affect July 1. 

The bill originally included a rule that required transgender athletes to undergo testosterone or genetic testing and to have their genitalia examined, but those stipulations were removed, CBS Miami reports.

After the governor signed the act into law, Democratic State Senator Shevrin Jones called it “yet another hate-driven attack from the governor and Republican legislators,” saying that it is “insulting that they’ve staged this morning’s photo-op on the first day of Pride Month,” according to CBS Miami.

“At the end of the day, transgender kids are just kids,” Jones continued. “They need to be heard, trusted, and supported, and this law will deny kids across the state critical life lessons including teamwork, dedication, and how to lose with grace and win with humility.”

“Most people don’t know what it’s like to be transgender or to be the parent of a transgender child, but we should all be able to agree that every Florida child deserves needs love and support, not aimless attacks from the legislature,” Jones said.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called the transgender ban “heartless,” saying DeSantis is “marginalizing an entire community.”

In April, NCAA Board of Governors, which is the main governing body for college sports, said it “firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports.” The board said it would only hold NCAA championships at “locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination.”

Critics argue the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” makes Florida an unfit host for NCAA championships.

However, DeSantis dismissed the NCAA’s warning.

“Some of these organizations say they’re not going to hold events if you do this, just let me say very clearly, in Florida, we’re going to do what’s right, will stand up to corporations, they are not going to dictate the policies in this state,” he said, according to CBS Miami. “We will stand up to groups like the NCAA, who think that they should be able to dictate the policies in different states.”

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