The Florida House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 77-40 to pass legislation prohibiting transgender athletes from playing girls’ sports.
The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act will now head to the state Senate, which will need to offer final approval before it is sent to Governor Ron DeSantis.
All but one Democrat in the Republican-controlled House voted against the bill, which mandates that female sports teams in Florida are specifically for “biological” women and girls, according to Politico. The measure, which would apply to students in K-12 and higher education, also creates a path for handling gender disputes by requiring a medical professional to verify a student’s sex.
GOP lawmakers say it is aimed at protecting fairness in women’s sports.
“There is an inherent, biological, undeniable difference between men and women, boys and girls,” state Representative Traci Koster (R., Tampa) said. “Simply put: we were designed differently.”
However, opponents have argued it will “legalize bullying” for transgender students and that the legislation targets LGBTQ rights, not girls’ athletics.
“Sports have become another avenue to attack the rights of trans people,” state Representative Anna Eskamani (D., Orlando) said. “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.”
As more than 20 other Republican-leaning states have worked to pass legislation around fairness in women’s sports, the NCAA on Monday warned that locations that don’t treat all student-athletes with “dignity and respect” could be ineligible to host future championship games.
While Florida House Democrats argued that passing the bill could lead to the Sunshine State losing out on millions of dollars in revenue if events were moved out-of-state, one GOP lawmaker accused Democrats of mistakenly holding the organization up as a “moral compass,” according to Politico.
One House member floated the idea of states with transgender sports bans working together to create their own athletic association.
“We know exactly what they’ll do if this law passes,” state Representative Chip LaMarca (R., Lighthouse Point) said. “The same thing they do for our student athletes right now — and that’s nothing. They treat them like free labor.”
The Senate will now take up the measure. While the bill was scheduled for its final hearing on Wednesday, it was temporarily postponed by sponsor state Senator Kelli Stargel (R., Lakeland) because of the packed Rules Committee agenda, according to the report.
Stargel’s bill, which is different from the House version in that it allows athletes who identify as female to participate in sports if their testosterone levels are below a certain mark, could resurface at a meeting on April 20.