Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis kicked off Pride Month by signing an anti-trans bill into law — the first explicitly anti-LGBTQ+ law in the state in more than a decade — and the Human Rights Campaign has promised to sue over it.
Standing behind a placard touting the so-called Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, DeSantis held a signing ceremony for legislation prohibiting trans girls and women from competing in school sports consistent with their gender identity. He signed a bill despite threats of economic boycotts and the possibility that the National Collegiate Athletic Association will pull championship events from the state.
“At the end of the day, if the price of giving opportunities that can last a lifetime for all girls in the state of Florida is that we lose an event or two, I would choose to protect our girls every day of the week and twice on Sunday,” DeSantis said.
No mention was made of the signing on the bill on the first day of June, the start of Pride Month nationally.
The Florida legislation appeared dead at one point during the session but was revived in a last-minute procedural maneuver as an amendment to an unrelated bill. That means the governor ended up signing a bill that is related to charter schools but included discriminatory language against trans women athletes.
At the signing ceremony, DeSantis brought Selina Soule, a Connecticut athlete who said she was denied the ability to win high school track events because transgender girls were allowed to compete against her.
“Any dreams of being first or best were shattered,” she said.
Lawmakers behind the legislation also said the bill has been miscast as discriminatory rather than a bill protecting female athletes.
The bill was based heavily on an Idaho law prohibiting trans girls and women at all levels of scholastic sports; the Idaho measure, passed in 2020, is being challenged in court. The legislation comes as a wave of similar bills are filed across the country.
DeSantis’s political opponents blasted the governor for signing the bill.
“By signing a heartless ban on transgender kids in sports, @GovRonDeSantis is marginalizing an entire community,” tweeted Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner. “Signing it on the first day of #Pride2021 is especially cruel. Florida should stand for inclusivity, equality, and liberty — not peddling hate for political points.”
Fried is expected to announce her candidacy for governor today.
Some governors, including Republicans, vetoed legislation passed even in conservative states. 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 governors in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, and West Virginia have signed bills to this effect during the 2021 session, and South Dakota's governor issued executive orders with similar language.
DeSantis committed to signing the legislation as he ponders a run for president in 2024.
The HRC quickly announced plans to sue Florida. "The Human Rights Campaign will always stand up to anti-equality forces on behalf of transgender kids, and that is exactly what we plan to do by legally challenging this ban on the participation of transgender girls and women in sports," said a statement from HRC President Alphonso David. "Gov. 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. 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 SB 1028 will not just impact transgender people in Florida. 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."
The Trevor Project also condemned the legislation. “On the first day of LGBTQ Pride Month — and after a year in which more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered attempting suicide — it is unconscionable that Florida politicians would go out of their way to target trans youth. This group of young people desperately needs more support, not to be further marginalized and attacked by those in positions of power,” said Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for the organization. “These sports bans are as unfair and unnecessary as they are dangerous. When a trans young person is told they cannot play the sport they love solely because of who they are, it can be incredibly harmful to their mental health and sense of self, and contribute to increased risk for suicide. This Pride Month, and every month, we must send a strong message to transgender and nonbinary youth that they should be proud of who they are and deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.”