During a press conference Tuesday, Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that bans transgender athletes from competing in women’s and girls’ sports.
The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which the Republican-dominated Florida state legislature passed in April, bars males from competing against females in high school and college athletics regardless of their professed gender identity. The bill gives students the power to file a lawsuit against a school that allows transgender women to play on female teams.
“We believe it’s very important that the integrity of those competitions are preserved, that these opportunities are protected. In Florida, girls are going to play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports,” DeSantis said at the press conference.
“We’re going to go based off biology not ideology when we’re doing sports,” he continued.
A number of other states, including Idaho, Montana, and West Virginia, have enacted similar policies, citing the unfairness in competition experienced by girls who play against biological males with a physical advantage.
Certain prominent Republican governors, namely Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Doug Burgum of North Dakota, have vetoed their state’s respective transgender bills so as to avoid expensive litigation, discrimination in hosting tournaments, and corporate bullying from athletic conferences and organizations such as the NCAA. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas also shot down her state’s version, using similar justification related to potential cost as well as mention of promoting “inclusivity,”despite the bill gaining enough support to advance through both chambers. Kansas Republicans subsequently failed to override the veto.
DeSantis’ action comes amid a new drive among female athletes to demand fairness and equal opportunity in their sports. USAToday recently modified the published personal testimony of a female athlete, who lost major titles to transgender competitors, to exclude “hurtful language.”
The Florida bill mandates that only “biological” women and girls are eligible to compete in female-designated sports. It would allow for arbitration in gender disputes by requiring a medical professional to confirm a student’s sex.
“Any student who is deprived of an athletic opportunity as a result of a violation of this law will have the right to civil remedies,” DeSantis added about bill’s avenue for legal recourse for female players.
While GOP legislators say the law will promote fairness in women’s sports, opponents believe it targets student members of the LGBTQ community and “legalizes bullying.”
“There is an inherent, biological, undeniable difference between men and women, boys and girls,” state Representative Traci Koster said. “Simply put: we were designed differently.”
“Sports have become another avenue to attack the rights of trans people,” state Representative Anna Eskamani stated. “And those efforts have caused incredible harm to trans youth, who, like all kids, especially in the middle of a pandemic, deserve compassion and support.”
Transgender activists and their supporters claim that biological males surrender all of their natural athletic advantages by artificially suppressing their testosterone levels, but numerous studies show that males retain certain advantages, such as greater bone density, even after years of hormone therapy.