A week after political observers declared trans-exclusionary sports legislation in Florida dead, Republicans lawmakers used a procedural shortcut on Wednesday night to pass the bill. It’s now up to Republican governor Ron DeSantis to sign or veto the measure targeting trans athletes.
The Florida House earlier this month passed a bill described as a “carbon copy” of a controversial Idaho law prohibiting trans girls and women from competing in girls and women’s collegiate sports. But in the Senate, a less exclusionary version of the bill was never heard in its final committee and seemingly shelved before reaching the Senate floor. But in the end, the Republican majority got a measure across the finish line thanks to an unfair competitive advantage in both chambers.
Late Wednesday, Florida Rep. Kaylee Tuck, the sponsor for the House bill, offered the legislation up as an amendment to an unrelated charter school bill. The amended bill passed largely along party lines, 79-37 in the House and 23-16 in the Senate.
Sen. Kelli Stargel, the Republican who sponsored Senate legislation, defended the move. “I feel that the safety of our girls to be able to play in girls’ sports without potentially being harmed by a much stronger man, who may be playing on that sport, or whether it’s a transition female that may still be stronger,” she said, according to Florida Politics.
Not all Republicans supported the bill. Florida Politics reported Sen. Gayle Harrell, a south Florida Republican, voted against the amendment and at one point was escorted off the Senate floor.
Even Stargel’s daughter criticized the measure on social media.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a gay Democrat in the Florida House, filed multiple amendments in an attempt to slow the “11th-hour” maneuvering.
The legislation ultimately passed but did have differences from the version originally supported by the House. It would determine girls’ and women’s eligibility for sports based on the gender assigned on a birth certificate at or around the time of birth, as opposed to allowing schools to inspect children’s genitals to verify gender. The legislation passed also only excludes elementary school students and only applies in sports for middle school and older students.
Most expect DeSantis to sign the bill, but the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation today will call for a veto.
The Senate bill originally stalled after the National Collegiate Athletic Association made clear it will pull championships and other events from states that pass similar laws. In Florida, that meant passing the bill risked cancellation of 50 events with a collective $75 million economic impact.
Some governors have vetoed legislation passed even in conservative states. A week ago, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, both vetoed such bills. Burgum cited concern over “unforeseen consequences.” But other governors in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia have signed bills.
The legislation passed the same day President Biden in his first address to Congress promised to sign the Equality Act, which stands in direct opposition to this and bills in other states. “To all the transgender Americans watching at home — especially the young people who are so brave — I want you to know that your president has your back,” Biden said.