Florida House supports ban on transgender female athletes

TALLAHASSEE, Florida. – Despite passionate calls from LGBT advocates, a Florida House panel on Wednesday approved a controversial proposal that would ban transgender girls and women from participating in women’s sports in high school and college.

The decision of the House’s secondary education and career development subcommittee placed Florida among the ranks of at least two dozen other Republican-dominated state legislatures that have considered or approved measures requiring student athletes to compete based on their sex assigned at birth.

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Bill Kaylee Tuck sponsor R-Lake Placid said the ban on trans athletes was necessary to establish parity for biologically female athletes.

“There are inherent biological differences between males and females. The “Equity in Women’s Sport Act” supports women and girls by ensuring they have the same opportunities as men and boys to showcase their skills, strength and other athletic abilities, ”Tuck said before. the panel’s 13-4 vote in favor of the bill.

But critics of the measures targeting transgender student athletes say the proposals are rooted in fear, misunderstanding and politics.

“This bill would only marginalize and demonize the transgender community. If anything, this bill will create more injustice, as we try to call it the “Fairness in Women’s Sport Act”, ”said Rep. Marie Paule Woodson, D-Hollywood. “We have to treat people the way we want to be treated. We need to focus on other issues that are essential for our state, our youth, our elders, our family. “

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Currently, the Florida High School Athletic Association has a process for transgender students to “participate in interschool sports in a manner consistent with their gender identity and expression,” according to a staff analysis of the bill. . The association is “neutral” on Tuck’s proposal, lobbyist Ron Book said in a text.

Representative Carlos Guillero Smith, an Orlando Democrat who is gay, is among LGBT activists condemning the legislation.

“It’s motivated by bigotry. It’s motivated by transphobia. And it’s certainly not motivated by the problems we’ve had in Florida, ”Smith told the News Service of Florida on Wednesday.

Transgender students have been involved in athletics in Florida openly since 2012, Smith said.

“Florida Republicans are again declaring social wars against LGBT people in the Florida Legislature. They’ve lost on every other front in the courts, at the Florida Commission on Human Relations, so they’re inventing new things to be upset, ”said Smith, who is not part of the group that approved the project. of law.

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Facing questions from the Democrats on Wednesday, Tuck admitted that Florida had not reported complaints about the current process.

“We don’t need to wait until there is a problem to have a policy against it,” she said.

But many speakers urged lawmakers to vote against Tuck’s proposal.

Nathan Bruemmer, a transgender man who is a former teacher and trainer, warned the bill would hurt students.

“There are so many lessons in sport, but the barrage of attacks and attempts to erase it through misunderstanding and false rhetoric is heinous,” he said. “I have observed their pain and I have observed their suffering, and it will bring more. Celebrate the game. Don’t let hate be part of the lessons of sport. “

Paul Arons, a doctor, argued that the proposal ignores “the scientific, medical, emotional and social realities of young people on which it would have the most direct impact.” Banning transgender people “would inflict stigma, humiliation and injustice” on vulnerable students, Arons said.

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But Rep. Jason Shoaf, R-Port St. Joe, defended the bill, highlighting the biological differences between his son and daughter, who are 12-year-old twins.

“My friends, this is common sense. If my son decided tomorrow that he is now a girl, he could use his natural biological benefits to take opportunities away from biological daughters, ”he said. “So this has a terrible impact on the girls. It’s a wake-up call from science, and it’s time for some common sense to return to the room. “

Representative Susan Valdés, D-Tampa, noted that Tuck’s bill is identical to a 2020 Idaho law that a federal judge prevented from coming into force.

Before voting against the bill, Valdés offered a message to transgender students.

“You are loved. You are valued and your humanity is not defined by a vote in the Florida legislature,” she said.

Staff analysis also noted that three female high school athletes from Connecticut had filed a lawsuit, arguing that a policy allowing transgender women to compete with biological women had deprived them of athletic titles and opportunities to compete. scholarships.

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The lawsuit is still ongoing, as is the legal challenge to Idaho’s law.

But Florida and other Republican-led states are continuing the bans.

For example, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed a similar bill last week. A measure passed by South Dakota lawmakers awaits Gov. Kristi Noem’s action.

LGBT activists across the country denounce the proposals, which Equality Florida called “nothing less than an attack on at-risk youth aimed at spreading hate stereotypes and further demonizing a group of young people in need of support.” and additional care. “

Transgender youth “need to be assertive and empowered, not used as political pawns,” said Gina Duncan, director of transgender equality at Equality Florida, in a prepared statement against Tuck’s bill.

“This is a community of young people who already face discrimination, bigotry and violence at higher rates than their peers. Our goal should be to protect them and provide them with the support they need to thrive, not attack them. These lawmakers should be ashamed of the way they have decided to use children to fuel the fear-mongering machine, ”Duncan said.

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