DeSantis signs transgender athlete ban on first day of Pride Month

Editor’s note: just a coincidence?  I don’t buy it!

By John Kennedy, Capital Bureau, USA TODAY NETWORK-FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Tuesday a controversial ban on transgender athletes participating in women’s sports at the high school and college levels, seizing on a trend coursing through conservative states.

The Republican governor enacted the measure on the first day of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month. But DeSantis denied that was a factor.

“It’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness in women’s sports,” DeSantis said after signing the bill (SB 1028) at Jacksonville’s Trinity Christian Academy.

“We believe it’s important to have integrity in the competition and we think it’s important they’re able to compete on a level playing field. You’ve seen what happens when you don’t have that,” he added.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat from St. Petersburg challenging DeSantis for governor next year, called it “cruel legislation…creating an issue where one doesn’t exist.”

When approved by the Republican-controlled state Legislature in April, lawmakers struggled to find any examples of transgender girls or women competing in Florida sports.

The new law would require public schools and universities to have athletes compete according to their sex documented at birth, rather than gender identity. It is set to take effect July 1.

While similar measures have been filed in 30 states, an Associated Press survey earlier this year found only a few instances among hundreds of thousands of teenagers nationwide playing high school sports.

The new Florida law is certain to face a legal challenge. Within moments of DeSantis’ action, the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, said it planned to sue to stop the measure, saying it’s driven by “discriminatory intent and not supported by fact.”

“Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls,” said Alphonso David, the HRC president. “Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team.”

Like much of the legislative agenda embraced by DeSantis, the transgender bill echoes the views espoused on conservative media.

The governor already has signed into law enhanced criminal penalties and new offenses for violence occurring at demonstrations, a move that followed Black Lives Matter protests, new voting restrictions decried by Democrats as harmful to minority voters and social media regulations – all now the subject of lawsuits in federal courts.

DeSantis, who will be seeking re-election next year and is seen as a potential Republican presidential contender in 2024, drew praise from conservatives for the transgender bill signing.

“In acting to defend women’s sports in Florida today, (DeSantis) has solidified his reputation as a fearless conservative who will face down attacks from the woke elite in order to do what’s right for his constituents,” said Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, which has campaigned against same-sex marriage, abortion rights and transgender rights.

“This is exactly the quality which voters are so desperately looking for in their national leadership,” added Schilling, who joined DeSantis for the bill-signing at Trinity Christian.

Also attending the event was Selina Soule, a former Connecticut high school track competitor who is part of a lawsuit challenging that state’s policy that allows transgender girls to compete in women’s sports.

The lawsuit claims that allowing transgender girls to compete effectively results in “boys displacing girls in competitive track events.”

“This is about our right, a woman’s right, to win,” Soule said.

Such bans, however, have been condemned by the NCAA, which has warned it might move championships out of locations where it felt student athletes were not treated with “dignity and respect.”

Also, more than 100 U.S. corporations have spoken out against the transgender athlete bans and other legislation seen as anti-transgender that has been introduced in states. DeSantis, though, said he was ready to defy any criticism or boycott that could follow.

“In Florida, we’re going to do what’s right,” DeSantis said. “We’ll stand up to corporations. They’re not going to dictate the policies in this state. We will stand up to groups like the NCAA who think they should be able to dictate the policies in different states.”

“Not here, not ever,” he said.

Florida Democrats fought the measure in the Legislature. On Tuesday, the Senate Democratic Caucus issued a statement saying the new law was misguided.

“Florida’s elected leaders could better serve all our youth by understanding and taking action on the high incidences of bullying, violence and suicidal tendencies that happen  to them across this state every day and trans youth should have no less focus,” the Caucus said.

“The language denigrating trans youth incorporated in this bill shows how little the Republican-led Legislature regards equal treatment for all our young people,” it added.

John Kennedy is a reporter in the USA TODAY Network’s Florida Capital Bureau. He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @JKennedyReport

 Image Credits: CC Dems Graphics