TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law Tuesday that bans transgender girls and women from competing on female high school and college sports teams and he did it on the first day of Pride Month, which celebrates the LGBTQ community.
DeSantis signed the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act" at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville.
The new law (SB 1028) makes female athletes' eligibility for sports teams' contingent on their "biological sex" on birth certificates issued "at or near the time of the student's birth."
It's not clear whether all females must show their birth certificates, or only those whose gender is questioned.
"We believe in the state of Florida protecting the fairness and integrity of women's athletics," said DeSantis. "I can tell you that in Florida, girls are going to play girls' sports and boys are going to play boys' sports. We're going to make sure that that's the reality."
DeSantis said the bill protects female-born athletes from competing against individuals who are physically superior to them, which could hinder their future opportunities in the sports world.
The law allows another student to sue if a school allows a transgender girl or woman to play on a team intended for biological females.
The final wording of the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act" stripped away some of its most contentious elements, including a requirement that transgender athletes in high schools and colleges undergo testosterone or genetic testing and submit to having their genitalia examined.
When asked about signing the bill at the start of Pride Month, DeSantis said, "It's not a message to anything other than saying we're going to protect fairness and women's sports."
The new law is getting a lot of pushback from LGBTQ advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers who say the law is discriminatory and will be challenged in court as unconstitutional.
"This is yet another hate-driven attack from the Governor and Republican legislators, and it's insulting that they've staged this morning's photo-opp on the first day of Pride Month," said state Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, after the bill's signing. "At the end of the day, transgender kids are just kids. They need to be heard, trusted, and supported, and this law will deny kids across the state critical life lessons including teamwork, dedication, and how to lose with grace and win with humility. Most people don't know what it's like to be transgender or to be the parent of a transgender child, but we should all be able to agree that every Florida child deserves needs love and support, not aimless attacks from the legislature." .
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called the transgender ban, "heartless."
"By signing a heartless ban on transgender kids in sports, Governor DeSantis is marginalizing an entire community. Signing it on the first day of Pride Month is especially cruel. Florida should stand for inclusivity, equality, and liberty – not peddling hate for political points," said Fried in her statement.
Critics have argued that Florida could lose out on lucrative collegiate championship games by enacting such a ban. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the main governing body for college sports, has threatened to relocate key games from states that discriminate against certain athletes. When the Florida Legislature was considering the measure in April, the NCAA said it would commit championship games to "locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination."
High-profile athletic events, such as football bowl games and basketball tournaments, generate millions of dollars for local communities.
Despite that, DeSantis dismissed the NCAA warning.
"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," DeSantis said. "We will stand up to groups like the NCAA, who think that they should be able to dictate the policies in different states."
The ban was tucked at the last minute of the legislative session into a measure allowing public universities and colleges to sponsor charter schools — a point the governor did not mention during the bill signing.
"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, a Republican who championed the bill.
"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."
The measure takes effect July 1.
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