Apr 29, 2021 - Politics

Florida Republicans unexpectedly pass bill restricting trans athletes

Illustration of a child in silhouette holding a transgender pride flag over their shoulders like a cape

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."

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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