TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida
's Republican governor
signed legislation Tuesday prohibiting transgender females from playing on public school teams intended for female student athletes, thrusting the state into the national culture war over transgender rights
“In Florida, girls will play girls sports
and boys will play boys sports,” Gov. Ron DeSantis
said as he signed the bill into law at a Christian academy in Jacksonville.
The new law, which will almost certainly be challenged as unconstitutional, exacerbates an already contentious national debate as Republican-controlled states
move to limit LGBTQ people
's rights, and it may have serious financial consequences for Florida.
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."
Millions of dollars are generated for local communities by high-profile sporting events such as football
bowl games and basketball
The measure approved by the Republican-led Legislature takes effect on July 1. It states that a transgender student athlete cannot participate unless she first shows a birth certificate indicating she was a girl when she was born. It is unclear whether all females must show their birth certificates, or only those whose gender is questioned.
The final version of the "Fairness in Women
's Sports Act" removed some of its most contentious provisions, including a requirement that transgender athletes
in high schools
and colleges undergo testosterone or genetic testing and consent
to having their genitalia examined.
However, the legislation signed by the governor advances an underlying principle asserted by supporters: biological differences between males and females make it unfair for athletes identified as boys at birth to compete on teams for girls and women. The law would not prohibit female athletes from competing on teams for boys or men.
“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,” Human Rights
Campaign President Alphonso David said.
and LGBTQ advocates have stated that the law is clearly 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 op on the first day of Pride Month
,” state Sen. Shevrin Jones said after the bill was signed.
The ban was tucked into a measure allowing public universities and colleges to sponsor charter schools at the last minute of the legislative session — a point the governor did not mention during the bill signing — but it was the transgender athletes provision that was front and center in Tuesday's rhetoric.
“This bill is very simply about ensuring that women can safely compete, have opportunities, and physically excel in a sport that they have trained for, prepared for, and work
for,” said state Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Republican who championed the legislation.
“This has nothing to do with anyone being discriminated against,” she explained, “it is solely to allow women to compete in women’s sports.”
The Florida law is similar to the Idaho
law, which was the first of its kind when it was passed last year and is now being challenged in court. Republican governors in Arkansas
, and Tennessee
have also signed similar legislation.