DeSantis signs controversial transgender girls sports ban on first day of Pride in Jacksonville

The Florida Times-Union | by Emily Bloch | June 1, 2021

On the first day of Pride month, Gov. Ron DeSantis hosted a press conference Tuesday in Jacksonville to sign a bill into law that will ban transgender women athletes from competing in high school girls’ and college womens’ sports teams

SB1028 is a wide-ranging education bill that includes school choice measures as well as the controversial transgender ban. 

“We believe, in the state of Florida, in protecting the fairness and integrity of women’s athletics,” DeSantis said. “In Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports and boys are going to play boys’ sports … We’re going to go based off biology, not ideology.” 

The press conference took place at Trinity Christian Academy, where the governor threw ball caps into the audience. A podium read “The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.”

DeSantis invited Selina Soule, a Connecticut high school track star, to speak on her experience, where she says she was sidelined by transgender girls competing against her. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a panel in Jacksonville, Florida on Aug. 4, 2020.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a panel in Jacksonville, Florida on Aug. 4, 2020. Bob Self/Florida Times-Union

“I’ve lost countless opportunities over the last few years,” she said. “Allowing male athletes to compete in girls’ sports shatters dreams.” 

She thanked DeSantis, who added later that Soule may be looking into transferring to a Florida university. 

Bill critics have warned that the ban provision could hurt the state’s chances at hosting large sports conferences or securing corporate sponsorships. But DeSantis told the crowd that he’s not concerned and that the most important thing is to “protect our girls,” and that he’d do that over a financial deal “every day and twice on Sunday.” 

The ban has also drawn sharp criticism from LGBTQ+ advocacy groups as well as Democratic lawmakers. 

“It’s shameful that Republican lawmakers are wasting tax dollars attacking Florida’s most vulnerable communities rather than prioritizing the issues that impact everyday people’s lives,” State Sen. Shevrin Jones said in a statement asking the governor to veto the bill as it approached veto deadline. 

Shortly after the press conference ended, the Human Rights Campaign announced it would be filing a lawsuit to block the ban. Equality Florida also announced a series of rallies against the law across the state. 

When asked by a reporter about the timing of DeSantis’ bill signing, on the first day of Pride month, the governor replied that he met personnel from Trinity Christian at a football game. 

“It was nothing more than that,” he said. “They had a venue to offer … It’s not a message to anything other than that we’re going to protect women’s sports.” 

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