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Florida GOP-Backed Transgender Sports Bill May Die In Senate

Close up of an athlete's pink sneakers as they run on a rural road at sunset.
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A GOP-backed proposal to restrict transgender women and girls from playing on female teams may die in the Senate.

A plan restricting transgender women and girls from playing on female sports teams was dealt a critical setback today. The bill was temporarily postponed during its last committee stop, and its sponsor says there may not be enough time to revisit the bill this session.

While the Senate bill paves a way for transgender women and girls to still compete in female school sports, the House bill effectively bans them from playing on a team that aligns with their gender identity. Both proposals faced heavy criticism from LGBTQ advocates like Equality Florida's Jon Harris Maurer. He says the Senate bill created unrealistic expectations for transgender women and girls. It requires them to undergo hormone therapy.

"We know that everybody's transition process is different, and there are real barriers to engage in that process even for those who do want to pursue transition, including things like hormone therapy. There are real cost barriers. There are real access barriers. So, it's a fallacy to put that into statute and just pretend that anybody who wants to participate could certainly wave a wand and suddenly become eligible if they meet these criteria," Maurer says.

Hormone therapy for prepubescent transgender girls involves blocking testosterone and eventually taking estrogen. The Senate bill would have set a threshold for testosterone levels based on what's required for transgender women to compete in the Olympics. Maurer says it's not fair to impose those standards on children.

"We're talking about seven and eight-year-olds that just want to play soccer. We shouldn't be holding them to the same standards that we hold for the world's most elite athletes," Maurer says.

Currently, the Florida High School Athletics Association has policies for transgender athletes, as does the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Maurer says there haven't been any issues with these current policies.

"We know that these bills are just part of a coordinated far-right effort to marginalize and demonize transgender youth," Maurer says.

Recently, the NCAA issued a statement in support of transgender athletes and said it would only select places to host championships where hosts can provide an environment free of discrimination.

"My opposition to this bill is not just about 50 NCAA championships Florida stands to lose," Rep. Andrew Learned (D-Riverview) said during debate on the house companion bill. "This is about saying clearly that no matter who you are or where you come from, all kids deserve the chance to play."

The House bill passed a floor vote with Republicans, including House Speaker Chris Sprowls, supporting it. Senate bill sponsor, Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), had prepared an amendment that would have aligned her proposal with the more restrictive House version. But shortly after postponing her bill, she released a statement saying her primary focus as Appropriations Chair is to pass the budget.