Florida LGBTQ Advocates Concerned Two Legislative Proposals Could Harm LGBTQ Youth
LGBTQ Advocates are speaking out against proposals in the legislature they say could harm LGBTQ youth. One involves the ability of transgender women and girls to compete on female school sports teams. The other clarifies the rights parents have over their children in schools—but opponents worry it could force school officials to reveal private conversations with students.
A House bill that passed a floor vote would effectively ban transgender women and girls from playing on female school sports teams. Its Senate companion requires these individuals to undergo hormone therapy if they want to compete on a team that aligns with their gender identity. But the Senate sponsor, Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), offered an amendment that would conform her bill more to the House version. The Southern Poverty Law Center's Carrie Boyd says the proposal is an attack on transgender youth.
"It denies children the critical life lessons that sports can teach them like leadership, teamwork, dedication, and we decided long ago in this country that discrimination is wrong, and everyone should have the same opportunities for development and success in this life," Boyd says.
During the last scheduled committee for the Senate bill, Stargel temporarily postponed her measure and released a statement saying her priority is setting the budget, and there may not be enough time to revisit her bill this session. But LGBTQ advocates like the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation's Lakey Love is concerned the proposal could still pass.
"If Stargel had really wanted to kill the bill, she could've withdrawn it," Love says.
After her statement, Stargel later said she's still working out the differences between her bill and the House version. Love points to the bill's GOP-backing, particularly from House Speaker Chris Sprowls as a sign the bill is still alive. Sprowls voiced his approval of the House version after it passed a floor vote.
"I've been very public that I believe that our bill is common sense—allows girls to play girls sports, you know protects the competitiveness of girls sports," Sprowls says.
Supporters of the measure say transgender women and girls could have a competitive advantage in sports due to biological differences they may have when compared to cisgender women and girls.
LGBTQ advocates are also worried about a proposal dubbed the Parents' Bill of Rights. It could force teachers to out LGBTQ students to their parents. Love says that comes from language in the bill that says important information relating to a minor child should not be withheld from their parents.
"But the definition of important information is left undefined, right? And that is apparently up to the parents," Love says.
Love is concerned 'important information' is too broad and could include a student's gender identity or sexual orientation, and that if a teacher learns a student is gay or transgender, that teacher would have to tell that student's parents. Republican supporters of the Parents' Bill of Rights say the bill doesn't force teachers to out their students, and to do so would be a misinterpretation of the bill. The Senate sponsor, Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers), says parents already have the right to view all of their student's records. The bill is now heading to the governor's desk.