Ahead of its first committee hearing on Wednesday, Duke University Law Professor Doriane Coleman, whose research is cited as evidence of the need for a ban on transgender athletes, issued a letter to Florida legislators in opposition to HB 1475, a bill that would universally ban transgender youth from participating in sports. Professor Coleman is joined in the letter to lawmakers by Juniper Eastwood, Division 1’s first transgender cross-country competitor. In it, they argue that blanket bans on transgender young people participating in sports amount to unconstitutional discrimination and should be defeated.
“The legislation’s proponents are wrong, however, to seek to bar all transgender girls from all girls’ sport,” write Coleman and Eastwood. “Sex discrimination is only constitutional when it’s necessary to secure equality for females and when the means chosen to achieve that goal are not unnecessarily broad or intrusive. The proposed legislation fails this test.”
The full letter can be read here.
HB 1475, one of multiple bills aimed at vilifying transgender youth this session, continues to be a destructive solution in search of a problem. In a recent Tampa Bay Times interview, Representative Kaylee Tuck (HD 55), the bill’s sponsor, could not cite a specific instance of a transgender athlete negatively impacting a competition in Florida. In fact, transgender youth have been participating under current Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA) guidelines for nearly a decade without incident. Adopted in 2012, FHSAA bylaws allow for students to participate in gender-segregated athletic events in a capacity consistent with their gender identity and expression after meeting minimum criteria and undergoing an eligibility review process. These rules for participation have successfully allowed transgender young people to play alongside their peers while ensuring equitable competition. Despite no need for such a legislative solution, HB 1475 would upend these athletic guidelines, usurp governance of sports programs from the institutions specifically established for that purpose, and cruelly cast marginalized young people out of the kind of peer activities that give them a sense of belonging.
“This is not and has never been about protecting equity in sports,” said Gina Duncan, Equality Florida Director of Transgender Equality. “It is a blatant attempt by national opponents of equality to turn vulnerable transgender children into a political weapon. These young people are at far higher risk of bullying, discrimination, and violence than their peers. Lawmakers should be focused on solving those real, tangible problems by fostering inclusive environments where transgender youth can find belonging, not by creating damaging solutions to a problem that does not exist. Let them play.”
Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community. Through education, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and lobbying, we are changing Florida so that no one suffers harassment or discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.