DeSantis Signs Law Restricting Transgender Participation in Women's Sports

Florida gov: 'Girls are going to play girls' sports and boys are going to play boys' sports'

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R.) / Getty Images
June 2, 2021

Florida governor Ron DeSantis's (R.) administration enacted a law limiting the ability of biological males to participate in female-only sports.

The law, titled the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act," restricts participation in female-only sports to biological females, based on the sex on a student's birth certificate. Florida became the ninth state to enact a ban on transgender participation in youth sports of the opposite sex. Advocates for transgender issues called the law cruel and unnecessary.

DeSantis signed the bill into law Tuesday and touted its protection of female sports. "We believe in the state of Florida protecting the fairness and integrity of women's athletics," he said at the bill signing. "I can tell you that in Florida, girls are going to play girls' sports and boys are going to play boys' sports."

DeSantis said he intends to have the law withstand threats of boycott from corporations. He specifically singled out the National College Athletic Association, which pulled events from North Carolina in 2017 over a "bathroom bill" that required transgender individuals to use bathrooms that corresponded to their biological sex. The NCAA eventually returned to the state after the governor and state legislature capitulated and repealed the law.

The legislation comes as the fight over social issues ratchets up at the state level. The contentious future of abortion and voting rights has already drawn legal battles and corporate boycotts as more Republican-controlled states enact legislation to maintain single-sex accommodations. Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles PAC, echoed DeSantis's challenge to corporations that threaten to pull business from Florida over the law.

"By joining Florida to a growing coalition of states that are moving to explicitly protect a fair playing field for female athletes, Gov. DeSantis has sent a message to the woke elite: attack us at your peril," Schilling said. "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."

De Santis's signing came on the first day of LGBT Pride Month, which opponents of the bill noted on social media. State representative Carlos Smith (D.) called the signing of the bill on the first day of Pride Month "appalling." DeSantis defended the timing, saying that the date of the bill's enactment was a coincidence.

"This bill is based in fear, not fact, and pushed by legislators who have been fed misinformation by anti-LGBTQ extremists who don’t care about women’s sports or Floridians—they care about dismantling equality and have no compunction about transgender youth being harmed in the process," said Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign.