Florida’s GOP-Controlled House Passes Anti-Trans Bill Targeting Young Athletes

The legislation reflects a push in Republican-led states to target transgender youth as a culture war issue.

Republicans in Florida’s House of Representatives passed a new bill that would ban transgender athletes from playing on girls’ or women’s school sports teams, part of a nationwide effort by GOP lawmakers to limit the rights of trans kids.

The bill, dubbed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, passed 77-40, with all but one Democrat voting against it. If it eventually becomes law, the legislation would mandate K-12 and collegiate sports teams in the state be solely for “biological” women and girls, rather than allowing transgender youth to play on a team in line with their gender identity.

A similar bill is being considered in Florida’s Republican-controlled state Senate. It’s unclear if Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) would sign the legislation into law.

The bill is part of a nationwide push by GOP lawmakers this year to target trans children. Dozens of states are considering bills that would either limit access to health care for young transgender Americans, or that would exclude trans kids from school sports. Legislation prohibiting children from playing on sports teams has already been passed in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The bill passed in Florida on Wednesday is modeled after a similar effort in Idaho that passed last year before it was struck down by a federal judge, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

Supporters of such legislation argue it’s necessary to preserve fairness in sports. Critics say the bills rely on negative tropes and conservative dog whistles about trans kids. The Orlando Sentinel notes that the Florida High School Athletic Association and the NCAA already have policies in place to help transgender athletes compete on sports teams, and that there have been no disputes about those mechanisms in the state.

“Sports have become another avenue to attack the rights of trans people,” Florida state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) said Wednesday. “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.”

The NCAA said earlier this month it “unequivocally” supports transgender student athletes and warned states it could pull championships and other events from regions that pass exclusionary legislation.

“Inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student-athletes, including transgender athletes, at all levels of sport,” the NCAA said. “Our clear expectation as the Association’s top governing body is that all student-athletes will be treated with dignity and respect.”

The organization has several championship events scheduled in Florida later this year.

“If you keep threatening the public with your woke elitist psychobabble, the NCAA will not last much longer,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) tweeted Tuesday. “Florida cannot be replaced, but you can be replaced.”

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