7 GOP Governors Have Signed Transgender Sports Bans

By: - June 2, 2021 12:00 am

Activists attend a #ProtectTransKids rally outside Orlando City Hall after Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a ban on transgender girls from competing in girls and women’s sports. Phelan M. Ebenhack/The Associated Press

On the first day of Pride Month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation banning transgender youth from competing in high school and college women’s and girls sports. He joins a growing list of Republican governors who have approved such bans.

The law passed the state’s Republican-controlled legislature in April after being included in an education bill. An earlier standalone bill died in the Florida Senate after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) threatened to pull championship games from the state.

Proponents of the bills argue that transgender girls have an unfair athletic advantage over cisgender girls and women, and that allowing them to compete threatens the athletic opportunities that women and girls have enjoyed since the passage of Title IX in 1972, which requires that women and men be granted equitable opportunities to participate in sports.

“In Florida, girls are going to play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports,” DeSantis said. He signed the bill at a private Christian academy in Jacksonville that would not be subject to the law, The Associated Press reported.

LGBTQ advocates say the bills discriminate against transgender youth, and that barring transgender kids from school sports jeopardizes their mental and physical health and can increase their isolation.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, announced the organization plans to sue the state of Florida.

“Gov. DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are legislating based on a false, discriminatory premise that puts the safety and well-being of transgender children on the line,” David said in a statement. “Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls. Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team.”

Governors in at least six other states—Alabama, Arkansas, Montana, Mississippi, North Dakota and West Virginia—have signed similar legislation in recent months. And lawmakers in more than half of the states introduced bills that would require proof of an athlete’s sex, meaning some girls could be forced to undergo physical exams, including of their genitals, before being allowed to play.

Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves kickstarted the wave of bans when he signed a bill in March. Shortly after, Republican governors in two other states, Tennessee and Arkansas, followed suit, barring transgender athletes from competing on girls sports teams. At least 10 states have pending legislation, and in at minimum three other states, the proposals failed to pass out of committee.

Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem vetoed their state’s bills, fearing discrimination against students and potential economic backlash.

This year marks the highest number of anti-transgender bills introduced in a single session, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Idaho passed the first such law last year. It was blocked by a federal court after the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit.

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Aallyah Wright

Aallyah Wright reports on rural affairs and leads race and equity coverage for Stateline. Previously, Aallyah worked for Mississippi Today, a digital nonprofit newsroom covering K-12 education and government in the Mississippi Delta.