Florida joined the ranks of seven other states on the first day of Pride Month in banning transgender youth from participating on women’s and girls’ sports teams.
The Sunshine State’s Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, signed a restrictive measure into law, marring the start of a typically celebratory month that recognizes the achievements of the LGBTQIA community.
The action comes amid a wave of anti-trans legislation across the country, with at least half of states pushing for bills that would similarly ban transgender youth from sports. South Dakota, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Montana and Alabama have already done so.
Under the new law, school sports teams are required to designate based on biological sex, or the sex printed on a person’s birth certificate. That means transgender women and girls can’t participate in women’s and girls’ sports.
"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,” Gov. DeSantis said Tuesday.
However, the term biological sex may be overly simplistic in the law. Biological sex may refer to the specific genitals a person was born with, while gender and gender identity are more complex. Gender refers to a social and legal status, according to Planned Parenthood, including how society expects a person to behave based on their perceived gender, which is typically male or female. Gender identity refers to how an individual feels about themselves and how they express their identity, such as through clothing, behavior or appearance.
Notably, the law permits students to sue if they are “deprived of an athletic opportunity or suffers any direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation,” according to CNN. Students can also sue if they experience retaliation or other adverse action by the school.
LGBTQIA groups immediately criticized the law in Florida, with the Human Rights Campaign announcing its intention to sue the state and block the law.
“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,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team.”
The timing of the signing of the law outraged many groups, as well, as it not only coincided with the first day of Pride Month but also was just 11 days from the fifth anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub massacre, a shooting that is known as the deadliest attack against LGTBQIA people in the United States.