Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs controversial transgender athlete ban bill

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Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law on Tuesday that bans transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports at the high school and collegiate levels in Florida, joining several other Republican-led states.

DeSantis’ signing came on June 1, the first day of Pride month which is dedicated to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

DeSantis insisted there is no connection with the signing of the bill and its timing.

“It’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness in women’s sports,” DeSantis said, via USA Today.

Florida is the latest state to pass a bill banning transgender women and girls from competing in sports. Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and West Virginia have all passed laws impacting transgender athletes, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem enacted a ruling there through an executive order.

Idaho was the first state in the country to pass such a law last year. It is facing a legal challenge.

Governors from Kansas and North Dakota have vetoed bills in their states on the topic. Utah lawmakers debated passing a bill there, but received warnings from Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and team president Jim Olson that passing a law could end up costing the team the 2023 NBA All-Star Game.

Though the NBA and NCAA have pulled events from states with controversial or discriminatory laws before, DeSantis said he wasn’t worried about pushback.

“In Florida, we’re going to do what’s right,” DeSantis said, via USA Today. “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."

DeSantis is ‘creating an issue where one doesn’t exist’

The Florida law is set to kick in July 1, though it will likely face a legal challenge.

DeSantis received plenty of criticism from activist groups and other politicians for the law, including from U.S. Rep. Charlie Christ (D-FL). The law, Christ said, is “cruel legislation” and DeSantis is “creating an issue where one doesn’t exist.”

An Associated Press survey of state lawmakers earlier this year seems to back up Christ’s viewpoint.

Local lawmakers in states that have passed or were debating similar bills almost universally could not cite an example of an issue involving transgender athletes in their states. Several lawmakers couldn’t name a single transgender athlete in their respective states at all.

“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 Florida Democratic Caucus said in a statement, via USA Today.

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

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