- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed legislation barring transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports, joining seven other states in what he described as an effort to protect female sports.

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, gave the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act his signature flanked by teenage athletes at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville.

“I can tell you that in Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports, and boys are going to play boys’ sports,” Mr. DeSantis said at the event.

Mr. DeSantis becomes the eighth governor in the last year to sign such legislation on scholastic sports despite opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBTQ groups, which have decried the laws as discriminatory.

The ACLU already has sued Idaho, which became the first state to pass such a law last year, and West Virginia, where Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed into law a bill scheduled to go into effect July 8 unless blocked by a court.

American Principles Project President Terry Schilling, who attended the bill-signing, said Mr. DeSantis “has solidified his reputation as a fearless conservative who will face down attacks from the woke elite in order to do what’s right for his constituents.”

“Gov. DeSantis has sent a message to the woke elite: attack us at your peril,” Mr. Schilling said in a statement. “While economic boycott threats might have worked against a single state, the strength of many state leaders standing together to defend women’s sports is certain to neutralize the left’s favorite playbook.”

The Florida law covers state-sponsored girl’s and women’s athletics from middle school to college. Some of the state bills do not include college sports, which are governed by the NCAA.

The ACLU has slammed such measures as part of an “attack on trans youth.”

Under NCAA rules, transgender athletes may compete in women’s sports after a year of testosterone-suppression treatment.

The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act will empower Florida women & girls to be able to compete on a level playing field. This will help ensure that opportunities for things like college scholarships will be protected for female athletes for years to come.

Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 1, 2021

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, said Tuesday on a press call that “we know that this legislation is driven not by need or necessity, but by mean-spirited, bare-knuckle political tactics.”

“This is not the end of this. This is the beginning,” Ms. Smith said. “We will continue to push for a state that recognizes and embraces us all, and respects the dignity of every person, and that trans young people get the message that we will not allow them to be targeted and bullied without fighting back.”

The Human Rights Campaign vowed to file a lawsuit to “block this arbitrary, discriminatory ban” and noted that the measure was signed into law on the first day of Pride Month.

“On the first day of Pride, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law a bill banning trans kids in the state from playing sports,” the campaign said in a statement.

The newly signed bill, which becomes law July 1, does not prevent transgender male-to-female students from playing on coed teams or participating in boys’ and men’s sports. The measure also takes no action on female-to-male athletes.

The legislation provides for a private cause of action, including monetary damages, for students who lose athletic opportunities or suffer “indirect harm” stemming from violations of the law, or who face retaliation for reporting violations.

Among those attending the signing ceremony was Selina Soule, a former Connecticut high school track athlete who was one of several students to sue over the state’s policy allowing transgender participation in girls’ sports.

Ms. Soule, who is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, said she was forced to compete against athletes who were “bigger, faster and stronger than me because they were males.”

“As someone who was one of the first to start speaking against this injustice, it is very encouraging that my story has reached people across the country, and that many have seen what’s happened in Connecticut and want to take a stand to protect the female athletes in their state and to protect women’s sports,” she said.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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