Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed a law banning transgender women from playing school sports for girls and women. He did so after months of difficult and contentious negotiations.
The Republican governor described the ban as a way to protect the safety of girls’ and women’s sports. By law, an athlete who was not born a woman is not allowed to participate in women’s sports sponsored by schools. The ban does not apply to primary school children.
“In Florida, girls will play girls’ sports, and boys will play boys’ sports,” DeSantis said when signing the bill.
Several government organizations — the Florida High School Athletics Association and the National Collegiate Athletics Association — already had rules around the participation of transgender athletes.
Opponents of the law, including equal opportunity activists and many transgender people, denounce that DeSantis wants to score political points by further alienating transgender people.
Prohibitionists do not mention the tangible problems within the tournaments in Florida. They refer to Connecticut, where transgender girls have won many athletic competitions. Athletes filed a complaint against the overall state policy.
Florida is the most populous state that bans transgender athletes. Last year, Idaho became the first state to take such action, and this year Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi followed suit. It didn’t go smoothly, however: The human rights group’s American Civil Liberties Union announced it would defy the law in Tennessee, and Idaho is currently banned due to federal lawsuits.
For a long time, Florida seemed powerless to pass the law. It was eventually restricted by the charter school law. These are government-funded schools but operate independently of the public school system. Human rights activists describe this loophole as an illegal way to discriminate against transgender people.
Other charter school legislation is also controversial. For example, public colleges and universities are now allowed to enter into contracts with schools, a rule Republicans have been trying to agree to for years. The law facilitates the opening of independent schools, which opponents say is the privatization of public education, takes money and students from district schools, and is not held accountable.