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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, speaks at a press conference at LifeScience Logistics in Lakeland on May 28, 2021.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, speaks at a press conference at LifeScience Logistics in Lakeland on May 28, 2021. (Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

DeSantis Kicks Off Pride Month by Signing 'Appalling' and 'Shameful' Attack on Trans Student Athletes

"Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls," said one critic of the law. "Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team."

Jessica Corbett

As part of an ongoing series of GOP attacks on the rights of transgender youth, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida marked the first day of LGBTQ+ Pride Month on Tuesday by signing a bill to bar trans girls and women from participating in public secondary school and college sports in line with their gender identity.

This bill is shameful. This bill is violent, and it just made the world less safe for our most vulnerable young people."
—Gina Duncan, Equality Florida

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) told CNN that Florida is the eighth GOP-led state to enact such a ban this year—which has also featured attacks on gender-affirming healthcare. The group vowed to challenge Florida's Senate Bill 1028 in court.

"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," said HRC president Alphonso David. "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 S.B. 1028 will not just impact transgender people in Florida," David added. "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."

Under Florida's so-called "Fairness in Women's Sports Act," student athletes who were identified as male on their birth certificates at the time of birth will not be allowed to participate in any club, intercollegiate, interscholastic, or intramural athletic teams or sports for females that are sponsored by a public secondary school, high school, college, or university.

"As a father of two daughters, I want my girls, and every girl in Florida, to compete on an even playing field for the opportunities available to young women in sports," DeSantis said in a statement.

"In Florida... girls are gonna play girls sports and boys are gonna play boys sports," he added, speaking at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville flanked by student athletes. "That's what we're doing, and we're gonna make sure that that's a reality."

While Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez (R), Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-10), and Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Chris Sprowls (R-65) all framed S.B. 1028 as a measure that will "protect" the opportunities" for Florida athletes assigned female at birth, critics of the law accused state GOP policymakers of endangering trans girls and young women.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that Gina Duncan, Equality Florida's director of transgender equality, called the law "hateful and overtly discriminatory."

"They made it clear that they're not concerned about athletics," she said. "They simply don't believe that transgender people exist... It's not an accident that when transphobia is spewed from the highest levels of leadership, trans kids take the brunt of that bigotry. This bill is shameful. This bill is violent, and it just made the world less safe for our most vulnerable young people."

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-49) called DeSantis' move "appalling," highlighted Trinity's treatment of LBGTQ+ students, and charged that "if GOP lawmakers would have spent half as much time helping Floridians struggling with economic issues as they spent pushing trans kids out of school sports, our state would be much better off."

"Unfortunately, S.B. 1028 contributes to the dangerous stigma that drives the epidemic of violence against and bullying of transgender youth," said Smith, Florida's first openly LGBTQ+ Latino lawmaker. "We adults have a responsibility to protect trans youth, not use them as political pawns in a cynical attempt to score partisan points."

"Right now, the only message that matters is our message for transgender youth," he added. "We see you. You exist and are beautiful and loved. We stand alongside you in the fight for fairness and equality!"


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