House Republicans reignite controversial legislation on trans athletes in final days of session

Florida State University women's soccer. Credit: YouTube, 2018.

UPDATE: The Senate voted 23-16 Wednesday evening on a transgender-related student athlete bill outlining that team members must be designated…based on their biological sex at birth, and females, women, or girls may not be open to students of the male sex, among other measures.

Controversial legislation on how transgender student athletes participate in school sports has reemerged in the House during the final days of the 2021 session, even after some Senate lawmakers indicated they would not have time to get to it.

The legislation on transgender athletes has been on pause, but suddenly, on Wednesday, it revived as an addition to another bill — SB 1028.

That bill is about charter schools in Florida, which are public schools usually run by private entities. But that charter bill had not contemplated transgender athletes until the state House tacked on language barring trans women and girls from participating on women’s sports teams.

So for regular people who are not legislative experts, this is the kind of last-minute-move that often can come up in the waning days of a legislative session.

That legislative wrangling has now prompted concern and anger from some lawmakers who have advocated for trans athletes.

Adding new language to a bill is called an “amendment,” and Rep. Kaylee Tuck, a Republican who represents Glades, Highlands, Okeechobee counties and part of St. Lucie County, offered an amendment on transgender athletes on Wednesday, the third to last day of the two-month Florida session.

Lawmakers debated on that amendment, and it passed.

Then, House members voted on the the overall amended bill to tuck in the language on transgender athletes into how charter schools operate. The vote was 79 to 37.

Now, the amended bill says that transgender women and girls would need to play on the men’s team, while trans men could be allowed to play on either the men’s or women’s team, applying to athletes in secondary and post-secondary schools.

Gina Duncan, Equality Florida Director of Transgender Equality, said that lawmakers were “hellbent” on passing the controversial legislation in a press release Wednesday.

She continued: “Despite hearing the voices of trans kids and their families time and time again, extremists in the legislature have made it their mission to make trans children pawns in their culture war. Now, instead of being open about their bigotry, they are negotiating the future of anti-LGBTQ discrimination in smoke-filled back rooms and attempting to attach this amendment to a completely unrelated bill.”

According to the amended bill, a student athlete’s sex would be determined by an original birth certificate provided at time of birth, though House Democrats say that could pose issue for families with adopted students who may not have access to a child’s initial birth certificate regardless of whether the student is transgender or not.

The push to legislate the lives of transgender athletes is part of a larger effort at the state and national level. The Idaho Capitol Sun previously reported that about 30 other states have proposed similar legislation.

The Senate would need to approve the bill, and could make changes or negate the language on transgender athletes. But it is not clear how senators will react to the 11th-hour amendment. The legislation could come up as early as Wednesday evening.

Previously, state Sen. Kelli Stargel, who had sponsored a bill related to transgender athletes, indicated that the Senate may not have time to address the issues of transgender athletes. She is a Republican who represents parts of Lake and Polk counties.

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University, majoring in English with a focus in editing, writing, and media. While at FSU, she served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine, Nomadic Noles. Last fall, she fulfilled another editorial internship with Rowland Publishing, where she wrote for the Tallahassee Magazine, Emerald Coast Magazine, and 850 Business Magazine. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat. She spends her downtime traveling to all corners of Florida and beyond to practice lindy hop.