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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Florida Legislature unexpectedly passed a bill banning transgender student-athletes last night.

Why it matters: The legislation — presumed dead last week — is the first "categorically discriminatory anti-LGBTQ bill" to pass in our state in 23 years, according to Equality Florida.

How it happened: After her original bill stalled, Rep. Kaylee Tuck (R-Okeechobee) slid the proposed ban into a Senate bill dealing with charter schools that passed largely along party lines, per Florida Politics.

  • If signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act" would keep transgender athletes from participating in women's and girls' sports starting July 1.

The big picture: Similar measures are being pushed by Republicans across the country — at least 50 bills in 28 states, as Axios' Jeff Tracy reported last month.

The other side: Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) tried to create pathways for transgender athletes to still compete despite what he termed an "11th-hour" amendment, but those attempts failed.

  • "The message that the bill sends is an ugly message of exclusion telling trans kids that who they are is not OK and that they need to change who they are and if they don't ... and something happens to them, it's their own fault," said Smith, per WUSF.
  • Equality Florida spokesman Michael Womack told Axios that lawmakers passed the bill "when they thought people weren't watching."
"This is not how the government is supposed to function; this is not how a bill is supposed to be passed."
Womack

The bottom line: With this move, our state once again finds itself at the center of the post-Trump culture war raging across America.

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Go deeper

Apr 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

West Virginia governor signs bill restricting trans athletes

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice. Photo: Justin Merriman/Getty Images

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) on Wednesday signed into law a bill that bans female transgender athletes from participating in sports that align with their gender identity in public middle schools, high schools and colleges.

The big picture: The ACLU issued a statement saying it intends to take legal action over the move. The bill passed in the state Senate in an 18-15 vote earlier this month. It's the eighth Republican-backed bill signed this year targeting trans youth. A record 89 bills have been introduced so far in 2021 targeting trans youth as of April 20, per ACLU.

Go deeper: NCAA "unequivocally" supports trans students competing in sports

FLOTUS invites transgender teen as guest to joint session of Congress

President Joe Biden and First lady Jill Biden on April 25. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

First lady Jill Biden invited 16-year-old Stella Keating, the first transgender teen to testify before the U.S. Senate, as one of her virtual guests to President Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Keating's invitation comes amid a record number of Republican-backed bills introduced this year targeting trans youth — and after Biden's White House has brought national political attention to trans rights.

Florida legislature unanimously votes to protect wildlife corridor

A panther creeps through a fence at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, emerging from nearby ranchland. The sanctuary is too small to support even one adult male panther, which may require up to 200 square miles of territory for roaming and hunting. While a male's territory can overlap a little with that of another male, the solitary cats generally avoid each other. Photo: Carlton Ward Jr./National Geographic Society

After a decade of work by Florida wildlife advocates and conservationists, both houses of the legislature unanimously passed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act to protect the state's interior greenways that are vital to animal migration.

Why it matters: The act, which has broad support from communities, ranchers, farmers and environmentalists, secures access to habitats for a range of wildlife, including the endangered Florida panther, and stops the division and fragmentation of critical migration lands.

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