Florida Gov. DeSantis signs controversial transgender female athletes bill

Governor says new law ensures fairness in high school, college sports

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a wide-ranging education bill that included banning transgender female athletes from competing on high-school girls’ and college women’s sports teams.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a wide-ranging education bill that included banning transgender female athletes from competing on high-school girls’ and college women’s sports teams.

The governor introduced the legislature during a news conference in Jacksonville Tuesday with signs on the podium reading “The Fairness In Women’s Sports Act.”

“In Florida, girls are going to play girls sports, boys are going to play boys sports,” DeSantis said.

The bill was sent to the governor Friday.

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“It says that athletic teams or sports that are designated for females are open to females, and we’re going to go based off biology, not based off ideology when we’re going sports,” he said. “The bill defines a student’s biological sex based on the student’s official birth certificate at the time of birth.”

The governor said this new law would ensure women have the opportunity for “scholarships and competition at the highest level,” but it also allows athletes or institutions the “right to civil remedies” if there is a violation of the bill.

“We’re not just setting a standard, we’re also providing ways where that fairness and the equality can be enforced on behalf of our girls and our women athletes,” DeSantis said.

SB 1028 sought to make female athletes’ eligibility for sports teams contingent on their “biological sex” on birth certificates issued “at or near the time of the student’s birth.” DeSantis reiterated the bill would provide and ensure fair competition for girls and women throughout the state of Florida.

The governor also addressed the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the main governing body for college sports, which released a statement in April saying in part its events would be free of discrimination.

“In Florida, we’re going to do what’s right. We’ll stand up to corporations, they are not going to dictate the policies in this state,” he said. “We will stand up to groups, like the NCAA, who think that they should be able to dictate the policies in different states. Not here, not ever.”

Critics of the transgender athlete bill were quick to react online. Some pointed out the fact that the bill signing — which they call discriminatory —took place on the first day of LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani released a statement swiping at DeSantis. It reads:

“Governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law the state’s first anti-LGBTQ bill in 23 years. This bigoted, transphobic piece of legislation targets one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our state: transgender youth. It excludes transgender people from public life, including participation in sports. It’s shameful that our Governor and Florida’s Republican Party would attack a group of people who already experience constant discrimination, bullying, and high rates of suicide.

“For over a decade, athletics in Florida have been guided by policies that balance the competitive nature of sports with the necessity to give transgender students access to the educational, development, and leadership opportunities that participating on a sports team can provide.

“Transgender youth deserve our love and support, not cruel attacks because of who they are. The consequences for states that have passed anti-LGBTQ+ laws are clear — bigoted policies lead to major economic loss. Today Governor Ron DeSantis allowed ignorance to prevail and took our state backwards in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality. We won’t forget it.”

The Florida Senate Democratic Caucus released a statement following the bill signing. It reads:

“By folding the transgender ban into the charter school legislation, Republicans in Tallahassee rejected both science and reason, openly attacking vulnerable LGBTQ+ children without a single shred of evidence that a problem even exists. Not once has there been an incident or complaint in our State alleging that a transgender athlete’s participation unfairly impacted middle school, high school or college athletic competition.

“Florida’s elected leaders could better serve all our youth by understanding and taking action on the high incidences of bullying, violence, and suicidal tendencies that happen to them across this state every day, and trans youth should have no less focus. The language denigrating trans youth incorporated in this bill shows how little the Republican-led legislature regards equal treatment for all our young people.”

The National Collegiate Athletic Association released a statement suggesting it may not bring championship competitions to Florida because of this new law.

“When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected. We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants,” the NCAA statement reads.

The United States Tennis Association also released a statement in support of transgender athletes. It reads:

“We will continue to work to ensure all participants are treated respectfully both on and off the court in all programs that we oversee. We unequivocally support and welcome all transgender student athletes to participate in our Florida tennis programs.”

The Human Rights Campaign also announced on Twitter it would be filing a lawsuit to block the law from taking effect.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.