The Human Rights Campaign Foundation on Wednesday sued Florida over its new law banning male-to-female transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s scholastic sports and warned that more lawsuits are on the way.
The federal civil rights lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida argues that the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, signed June 1 by Gov. Ron DeSantis, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Title IX, the federal policy outlawing sex discrimination in education.
HRC President Alphonso David said the lawsuit, brought on behalf of a 13-year-old transgender soccer player named Daisy who lives in Broward County, delivers the message that “you cannot attack our community without retribution.”
“Kids just want to play sports, and are confused about why their state’s leaders, who are elected to represent them, are so determined to hurt them,” Mr. David said in a statement. “There is no way to be more clear: transgender children are children; transgender girls are girls; transgender boys are boys; and our community deserves respect, dignity and equal protection under the law.”
Supporters of Senate Bill 1028 said it was needed to preserve fairness and safety in girls’ and women’s sports, arguing that post-pubescent males have inherent physical advantages that taking hormones to reduce testosterone cannot erase.
BREAKING: We are suing in Florida and taking action in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee to block anti-trans laws enacted this year.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) June 30, 2021
These hateful, discriminatory laws have no place in America and we will not rest until they are struck down. https://t.co/PhEGulewiK pic.twitter.com/V1QQxCz8B5
At his signing ceremony for Senate Bill 1028 in Jacksonville, Mr. DeSantis declared that “in Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports and boys are going to play boys’ sports.”
“As a father of two daughters, I want my girls, and every girl in Florida, to compete on an even playing field for the opportunities available to young women in sports,” Mr. DeSantis said said in a June 1 statement. “Women have fought for decades to have equal opportunities in athletics, and we have to prevent those opportunities from being eroded as is happening in other states. It’s common sense.”
The measure allows participation in sports “based on the student’s biological sex listed on the student’s official birth certificate at the time of birth” and applies to public interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club teams from the middle-school through university level.
“This issue is an issue of fundamental fairness. Recognizing gender differences is a far cry from discrimination,” state education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said in a statement. “This is especially true in education where major college athletics — and the scholarships that go with it — still delineate by gender. No one believes it would be fair for LeBron James to play in the WNBA.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued to block similar laws in Idaho and West Virginia, but the Florida lawsuit was the first such challenge brought by the HRC through its two-year-old Impact Litigation Initiative, which pursues “strategic impact litigation in domestic and international courts.”
The lawsuits said that Daisy began taking hormone blockers at age 11, followed this year by estrogen, “and will continue to do so for the rest of her life.”
“The Florida law will force Daisy to either play on the boys’ soccer team at school, which she will not do, or quit sports altogether which would be detrimental to her academic and social development, while also potentially risking her personal privacy and safety,” said the lawsuit.
Her parents, Jessica and Gary, said that it is “a very helpless feeling to know that people think our daughter does not deserve the rights to play sports with her friends.”
“Taking this right away will only further isolate her from her peers and take away her ‘safe space.’ She is just a girl that wants to play sports with her friends and be part of a team,” they said in the release. “As her parents, we just want her to be happy.”
Eight states, starting with Idaho, have passed laws in the last year prohibiting male-to-female transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports, while South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed an executive order in March that applies to high school but not college athletics.
Similar bills were vetoed this year by governors in North Dakota, Kansas and Louisiana.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who vetoed the bill last week, said that “this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” spurring discussion of a special veto session, which has so far not been called.