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Transgender sports bill signed into law

Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the Fairness In Women’s Sports Act Friday in Jacksonville
Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the Fairness In Women’s Sports Act Friday in Jacksonville(Courtesy of WJXX)
Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 12:01 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WWSB) - Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday signed a controversial bill into law that bans transgender female athletes from competing on high-school girls’ and college women’s sports teams in Florida.

“I can tell you this, in Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports, and boys are going to play boys’ sports. That’s what we’re doing and we’re going to make sure that’s the reality,” DeSantis said at the signing ceremony held at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville.

The measure (SB 1028) seeks to make 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.” House Republicans attached the transgender athlete ban to the sweeping education bill in the waning days of the legislative session that wrapped on April 30, after the controversial proposal had stalled in the Senate as a stand-alone measure.

“The bill .. will ensure fairness for women athletes for years to come in the state of Florida,” he said. “It says that athletic teams that are designated for females are open to females. We’re going to go based off biology, not based off ideology when we’re doing sports.”

The proposal, dubbed the “Fairness In Women’s Sports Act,” mirrors legislation considered or passed this year by a number of other states with Republican-led legislatures. The bans are drawing pushback from LGBTQ advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers.

State Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, had called on the governor to veto the bill. “It’s shameful that Republican lawmakers are wasting tax dollars attacking Florida’s most vulnerable communities rather than prioritizing the issues that impact everyday people’s lives,” Jones wrote in a prepared statement April 30.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner and Democrat Nikki Fried also decried the bill in a statement Tuesday. “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.”

The bill also provides an avenue for female athletes and schools that claim direct or indirect harm from violations of the law to be able to sue.

Critics also 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, released a statement in April saying that “only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected” for its events.

DeSantis was unfazed by that possibility. “We will not be cowed, we will stand strong,” he said. “If the price for providing opportunities ... is that we lose an event or two, I would chose to protect our young girls every day of the week and twice on Sunday.”

-- Information from News Service of Florida and WJXX-TV in Jacksonville was used in this report.

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