Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed Tuesday a version of the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act" into law, prohibiting males who identify as transgender females from competing on female sports teams in high school and college.
"We believe in the state of Florida, of protecting the fairness and the integrity of women's athletics," DeSantis said at the signing ceremony, standing onstage with teenage girl athletes from Trinity Christian Academy.
"And I can tell you this in Florida, you know, girls are going to play girls' sports and boys are going play boys' sports, that's what we're doing. We're going to make sure that that's the reality," he continued. "So the bill that we're doing today will ensure fairness for women athletes for years to come in the state of Florida. It says that athletic teams or sports that are designated for females are open to females. And we're going to go based off biology."
DeSantis signed the bill even though the National Collegiate Athletic Association threatened to pull its championship games out of states that "discriminate" against transgender athletes. Other companies warned that they would pull their business out of Florida because of the bill. DeSantis didn't care.
"Some of these organizations say they're not going to hold events if you do this, just let me say very clearly, in Florida, we're going to do what's right, will stand up to corporations, they are not going to dictate the policies in this state," the governor said. "We will stand up to groups like the NCAA, who think that they should be able to dictate the policies in different states."
Democrats and LGBT activists opposed the legislation as well, characterizing the bill as "unnecessary" and accused Florida Republicans of acting hatefully toward transgender persons.
Some critics observed that DeSantis signed the bill on June 1, the first day of National LGBTQ Pride Month, which in their view added insult to injury.
"Appalling," tweeted state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando). "First day of LGBTQ Pride Month and Gov. Ron DeSantis signs SB 1028 which bans trans kids from school sports. FHSAA has allowed trans kids to participate in FL since 2013 with ZERO problems. This fuels transphobia and puts vulnerable kids at risk for no good reason."
"By signing a heartless ban on transgender kids in sports, @GovRonDeSantis is marginalizing an entire community," Florida agriculture commissioner Niki Fried tweeted. "Signing it on the first day of #Pride2021 is especially cruel."
Fried, the only Florida Democrat currently holding statewide elected office, announced a bid for the Democratic nomination to challenge DeSantis for governor Tuesday.
"Florida should stand for inclusivity, equality, and liberty — not peddling hate for political points," she said.
A standalone version of the Fairness in Women's Sports Act had previously died in the state legislature, but Republicans revived the bill as an amendment to a larger bill related to charter schools.
The final version of the bill removed some of the most controversial portions in the first draft, including a requirement that student athletes undergo testosterone or genetic testing and have their genitalia examined before joining sports teams.
Almost immediately after DeSantis signed the bill, the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, declared it would sue Florida.
"The Human Rights Campaign will always stand up to anti-equality forces on behalf of transgender kids, and that is exactly what we plan to do by legally challenging this ban on the participation of transgender girls and women in sports," HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. "Gov. DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are legislating based on a false, discriminatory premise that puts the safety and well-being of transgender children on the line. Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls. Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team. Transgender youth must not be deprived of the opportunity to learn important skills of sportsmanship, healthy competition, and teamwork. The harmful provisions added to SB 1028 will not just impact transgender people in Florida. All Floridians will have to face the consequences of this anti-transgender legislation — including economic harm, expensive taxpayer-funded legal battles, and a tarnished reputation. In Florida, we are ensuring that there are legal consequences to pay for being on the wrong side of history."
The bill's supporters say legislation was needed to prevent unfair competition in women's sports.
"This bill is very simply about making sure that women can safely compete, have opportunities and physically be able to excel in a sport that they trained for, prepared for and work for," said state Sen. Kelli Stargel, who sponsored the legislation.
"This is nothing about anybody being discriminated against," she said. "It's solely so that women have an opportunity to compete in women's sports."
Florida joins West Virginia, Montana, and Idaho in banning transgender athletes from competing in women's sports.