On Tuesday, the Florida Senate Education Committee advanced a bill that would ban transgender children from playing sports in school. The legislation (SB 2012), would apply Olympic-level guidelines to middle and high school athletes and is part of a nationally orchestrated campaign designed to make transgender young people a political lightning rod.
“This is a terrible bill,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida Executive Director. “Even the sponsor admits this is not a problem in Florida. Florida already has clear guidelines and even the researcher cited to justify this says it is a harmful bill and should be opposed. They have made our kids political targets. If they have sincere concerns, they should meet with transgender youth and their families. The only thing this does is inflict harm and replace functioning guidelines with intrusive punitive ones.”
But elsewhere these bills are provoking strong opposition across party lines. Already this year Republican Governors in Utah and South Dakota have refused to sign similar legislation and Republicans joined Democrats in the South Carolina Legislature to put an end to it. Major corporations, sporting institutions, and child welfare agencies including the American Pediatric Association and the American Psychiatric Association vigorously oppose transgender youth sports bans.
Today’s movement in the Senate comes just two weeks after LGBTQ young people and allies were harassed and berated at a Brevard County School Board Meeting for defending transgender access to sports. As the school board met to discuss district guidelines on how best to support LGBTQ students, an angry mob shouted profane comments at attendees. Protesters called LGBTQ children “pedophiles” and “freaks”, accused them of “sniffing little girls’ underwear”, and suggested they be segregated into separate schools. The nation saw its deadliest year on record for transphobic violence in 2020, with 44 trans people murdered serving as a reminder that the demonization of the trans community has real, deadly consequences.
“Lawmakers have a decision to make,” explained Smith. “They can choose to stand with the angry mob bullying trans youth, or they can choose to stand with the majority of Floridians who want to build a state where all young people thrive.”
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.