What is Florida’s Anti-Transgender Sports Bill?
In late April, the Florida Senate adopted an anti-transgender House amendment to education-related Senate Bill 1028. Deep dive into the consequences of this action with our latest article written by our senior law clerk, Sarah!
What Does the Bill Say?In late April, the Florida Senate adopted an anti-transgender House amendment to education-related Senate Bill 1028. This amendment works to “ban transgender youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.” On June 1st, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law, making Florida the eighth state, all republican-led, to ban transgender girls and women in public secondary schools and colleges from participating on sports teams for girls and women. Ironically, DeSantis signed the bill on the first day of pride month, a month dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQIAA+ community. Ultimately, the bill requires sports teams to be based on “biological sex,” a term the bill defines as “the one that was printed on the student’s official birth certificate at or near the time of birth.” At the event for the bill’s signing, DeSantis stated:
“We believe that it’s very important that the integrity of those competitions are preserved, that these opportunities are protected, and I can tell you this: In Florida, girls are going to play girl sports and boys are going to play boy sports.”
DeSantis said by signing the bill, the only message he is sending is that Florida is going to protect the fairness of women’s sports, failing to recognize the anti-trans sentiment that radiates as a result of the bill. Advocates for the LGBTQIAA+ community and Democrats across the state vehemently oppose the bill. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Alphonso David expressed his disapproval of the bill, stating:
“Ultimately, this bill will not just hurt transgender kids; it will hurt all Floridians because the consequences of this law — economic harm, expensive taxpayer-funded legal battles, and a tarnished reputation — will ripple across the state. Let’s be clear here: transgender children exist and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Legislators across the country have neglected to name any examples of the sky falling based on transgender athletes’ participation in youth sports. That is because those examples simply don’t exist, and athletic organizations have welcomed transgender athletes’ participation for years without incident. We strongly urge Florida legislators to put an end to these hateful bills.”
The HRC announced on June 1 that they intend to sue the State of Florida over the bill, an action that “follows an earlier lawsuit against the anti-LGBTQ regulation by the United States Department of Health and Human Services that would have illegally strip[ped] away critical anti-discrimination protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The HRC won a preliminary injunction in that case in August of 2020.”
The Potential HarmAnti-transgender bills can pose significant economic harm to the states that enact it. For example, North Carolina’s bathroom bill, according to the Associated Press, cost the state at least $3.76 billion over 12 years because of lost business. The bill prevented local jurisdictions from passing laws that would protect gay and transgender individuals and required transgender people “in government facilities to use bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificate.” The monetary loss was caused by canceled relocations, conventions, projects, concerts, and sporting events. In 2016, the Texas Association of Business Report estimated that up to $8.5 billion and more than 100,000 jobs would be lost if Texas implemented a bathroom bill. Furthermore, reputational harm almost always follows the divisive topic of anti-transgender bills and can be seen through NCAA’s policy to only hold championships in an environment that is considered “safe, healthy and free of discrimination,” leaving states who implement anti-transgender bills to be deemed discriminatory.
The Widespread OppositionAccording to the HRC, more than 100 major corporations in the country have spoken out against anti-transgender legislation being proposed, including “Facebook, Pfizer, Altria, Peloton, Dell, Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, AT&T, AirBnB, Google, Hilton, IBM, IKEA, Microsoft, Nike, Paypal, Uber, and Verizon.” The NCAA released a letter to the public stating it “firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports.” But what does the public think? According to a study conducted by PBS/NewsHour/NPR/Marist, “more than half of Americans say they personally know someone who is transgender” and found that 67% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, opposed anti-transgender sports bills that are spreading throughout the nation. In addition, the HRC and Hart Research Associates study in March 2021 found that out of the 1,005 voters surveyed, 73% agreed that “sports are important in young people’s lives [and] young transgender people should be allowed opportunities to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.”
With more than 30 state legislatures proposing more than 115 bills that would limit transgender rights, the conversation of whether or not these bills are discriminatory and put transgender individuals at emotional and physical risk is imperative. In addition, we must come to an agreement about whether they are truly worth the economic and reputational harm that will undeniably follow their implementation.