TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida called it a legislative provision “premised on hate.”
What You Need To Know
- Equality Florida is urging elected officials and sports figures to oppose signage of bill
- A transgender athlete ban was passed by Florida Legislature late Wednesday night
- The NCAA says it 'firmly and unequivocally' supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes
- RELATED: Florida Republicans send sports transgender bill to governor to sign into law
- DOWNLOAD: Transgender athletes: The debate over a level playing field
Equality Florida called it “just the wrong thing to do to young, at-risk transgender young people” — and says it’s actively trying to reverse it.
And the NCAA suggested that it wouldn’t tolerate it.
They referred to legislation late Wednesday that would ban transgender girls and women from playing on girls and women's teams in public school.
The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature approved the measure late Wednesday in a last-minute maneuver that upset Democrats and supporters of transgender rights and transparent government.
The legislation had stalled until Wednesday, when the House of Representatives included the proposal on transgender athletes as an amendment in a bill that focused on charter schools.
The bill now is only a signature — Gov. Ron DeSantis' — from becoming law.
“I think it's really a disgraceful bill. It is one that is premised on hate, and that is about discrimination,” Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, told Spectrum News on Thursday.
Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, who carried the proposal in the Senate, said the bill didn’t aim to harm transgender children. She said it sought to recognize physiological differences between the sexes and to give girls and women an equal opportunity to excel in sports.
Opponents contend that such arguments aren’t based on science.
“This is about discriminating against trans girls and women," Kubic said. "It's about creating an environment of fear and harassment and intimidation, especially against a group that already experiences a great deal of marginalization in our society.”
Gina Duncan of Equality Florida, a St. Petersburg-based organization that focuses on securing LGBTQ equality, told Spectrum News that the organization had mobilized “every aspect of our community and society to push back against this bill and to implore Gov. DeSantis to veto this bill.”
Duncan said the organization is asking more than 50 mayors in cities throughout Florida to sign a petition that urges DeSantis not to sign the bill. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer told Spectrum News in a statement through his office on Friday: "The City of Orlando remains committed to LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion because everyone in our city deserves an equal opportunity to thrive independently of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability or nationality."
Minutes after a Thursday phone interview, Duncan told Spectrum News in an email that “due to popular demand, we have expanded the petition to include all elected officials who want to oppose this hateful bill.”
And that’s not all, she said.
“We are reaching out to sports personalities and sports leaders across Florida to urge the governor to veto this bill,” said Duncan, Equality Florida’s director of transgender equality. “We are asking our business partners, major employers who believe that Florida is better when we are an open, welcoming and inclusive state.
“And then finally, we're asking the governor to realize what he's looking at in a time when we should be looking at bringing Florida back from a pandemic and rebuilding our economic base.”
She referred to the power of the NCAA, which on Thursday referred Spectrum News to its statement from early this month on transgender participation.
“The NCAA Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports,” the statement begins.
The statement concludes by saying: “When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected. We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”
The NCAA website lists 11 championship events scheduled for Florida through the end of May. They include the Division I women’s tennis finals beginning May 20 in Orlando; the Division II men’s golf regionals beginning May 6 in Streamsong, south of Lakeland; and the Division I men’s and women’s outdoor track regionals beginning May 27 in Jacksonville.
The NCAA website also lists 15 championship events scheduled for the 2021-22 academic year.
Kubic, of the ACLU of Florida, pointed to 2016 when the NCAA pulled seven championship events from North Carolina because of that state’s stance on LGBT rights.
Asked about any action that the ACLU might take, he said, “We first have to wait for the governor to actually sign the bill.”
If that happens, Kubic said, “we'll take a look at it. And all options remain on the table. … I think it's very clear that the bill is an example of sex discrimination, is an example of discrimination that is illegal, that is unconstitutional, that's just plain wrong.”
In such cases, he added, “litigation and challenging in court is oftentimes a viable option.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.