TALLAHASSEE, FL – Last-minute maneuvering by Republican lawmakers revived a bill that would ban transgender girls and women from playing on public school teams intended for student athletes born as girls. The measure, Senate Bill 2012, was not expected to survive – even its sponsor, Sen. Kelli Stargel, R- Lakeland, conceded there wasn’t enough time to save it in this final week of session.
But in a surprise move, House and Senate Republicans attached the transgender ban to a wide-ranging charter schools bill and passed it Wednesday. Jon Harris Maurer, public policy director with the group Equality Florida said he’s disappointed to see how far some went to upend the legislative process.
“The whole process has been manipulated to rush forward this bill,” said Maurer. “And, for the first time in 23 years, the Florida Legislature has passed blatantly anti-LGBTQ policy, and its most directed attack to date on the transgender community.”
Despite opposition from Democrats saying it was in violation of rules, the bill passed and now awaits the governor’s signature. Maurer said he hopes Gov. Ron DeSantis will listen to the pleas of transgender youth, or consider the economic repercussions, and veto the bill.
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Maurer described the bill as “a problem in search of a problem.” He said there has been no issue outside of a national, coordinated effort by conservatives to ban transgender athletes.
“For nearly a decade, both the NCAA and the Florida High School Athletic Association have already had policies in place that are working that allowed transgender students to participate in athletics,” said Maurer. “And in all that time, there have been zero formal complaints about those processes.”
The measure was watered down to exclude a requirement that transgender athletes in high schools and colleges undergo testosterone or genetic testing, as well as submit to genital exams.
Proponents say the bill is necessary to maintain competitive equity in scholastic sports in Florida. Maurer said if the bill becomes law, his group and others will use “every tool available” to fight it.