Transgender athlete bill passed Florida House

The Republican-dominated Florida House on Wednesday passed a bill that would ban transgender females from playing on girls’ and women’s high-school and college sports teams, with Democrats arguing the measure is purely political.

The proposal (HB 1475) would make participation in athletics contingent on determining students’ “biological sex,” a disputed term that refers to the sex assigned at birth.

The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” passed the House on a 77-40 vote along almost straight party lines. The vote sets the stage for the House to try to reach agreement on the issue with the Senate, which has a bill that differs from the House measure.

House sponsor Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, argued during a debate Tuesday that the measure doesn’t ban transgender students from participating in sports but is “simply asking that they play based on their biological gender.”

Central to Tuck’s argument is an assertion that males hold an edge over females in playing sports. Several of Tuck’s Republican women colleagues backed her argument Wednesday. All Republicans present for the vote supported the bill.

“This is about giving women and girls an equal chance to succeed. It’s simple, it’s clear, I’ve reviewed it,” said Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, a Fort Myers Republican who said she played and coached tennis.

But House Democrats pushed back Wednesday, painting the measure as a political red-meat bill for Republicans that doesn’t address a real problem.

“I don’t care how many times you tell yourself this is about women’s sports and not LGBTQ rights or discrimination, because that is wrong,” Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, also an Orlando Democrat, pointed to similar legislation in more than two-dozen other states.

“The bill, and unfortunalty as a consequence, transgender children, have been weaponized and turned into political pawns. Not just by the Republican Party of Florida, but by 25 Republican state legislatures across the country,” Smith said during a news conference earlier Wednesday hosted by the advocacy group Equality Florida.