Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki
Florida has become the latest US state to introduce legislation banning transgender girls from taking part in girls’ school sports.
The ‘Fairness in Women’s Sport Act’ was signed into law by Republican governor Ron DeSantis on the first day of US Pride month (1 June) after months of debate. Florida is the latest in a growing number of US states implementing similar pieces of legislation.
Last year, Idaho became the first state to introduce legislation preventing transgender girls from taking part on girl’s teams in school sports. It has since been followed by Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia.
"This will help ensure that opportunities for things like college scholarships will be protected for female athletes for years to come.”
Following the signing, DeSantis tweeted: “The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act will empower Florida women & girls to be able to compete on a level playing field. This will help ensure that opportunities for things like college scholarships will be protected for female athletes for years to come.”
The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act will empower Florida women & girls to be able to compete on a level playing field. This will help ensure that opportunities for things like college scholarships will be protected for female athletes for years to come.— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 1, 2021
The 73-page bill, which also covers other issues, states that, “maintaining the fairness for women athletic opportunities is an important state interest” and that designating single-sex teams “is necessary to maintain fairness for women’s athletic opportunities.”
It goes on to say that teams in public secondary schools must be “expressly designated” by the gender assigned at birth (i.e., boys or girls) or co-ed. And despite including the word “fairness” in the title, the bill also says sports designated for boys may be open to girls but not vice versa.
Students who are “deprived of an athletic opportunity” and believe they have suffered in any way by schools have a right to seek damages.
Following news that the bill had been signed by Governor DeSantis, the advocacy group The Human Rights Campaign tweeted to say they would be fighting the legislation.
BREAKING: On the first day of #Pride, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law a bill banning trans kids in the state from playing sports.
We will be filing a lawsuit to block this arbitrary, discriminatory ban. #LetKidsPlay— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) June 1, 2021
"I will not rest until full equality for LGBTQ+ Americans is finally achieved"
In sharp contrast to DeSantis, President Joe Biden has given a proclamation at the start of Pride Month to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community, recognising “the valuable contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals across America” and reaffirming his “commitment to standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ Americans in their ongoing struggle against discrimination and injustice.”
Biden also recognised the growing wave of anti-LGBTQ (and especially anti-trans) legislation working its way through state governments across America, adding: "I will not rest until full equality for LGBTQ+ Americans is finally achieved and codified into law."
Despite being in office since January, President Biden has already proven he's more of an ally to the LGBTQ community than his Republican predecessor. In April, he restored healthcare protections for LGBTQ Americans taken away by Donald Trump, and also issued the US' first Trans Day of Visibility Proclamation.
Last month, Tennessee signed into law an act preventing transgender youth from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, in what’s seen as another step in the wrong direction for LGBTQ rights and equality in the United States.