The Florida House passed a bill on Wednesday that would ban transgender girls from participating in school sports and requiring girls whose sex is “disputed” to undergo inspections of their genitalia.
H.B. 1457 passed with a 77-40 vote largely along party lines; only one Democrat voted for it and no Republicans opposed it.
Rep. Michele Rayner, a St. Petersburg Democrat and the only gay woman in the Florida House, wept as she argued against the bill’s passage.
“As a lawyer, I have been trained not to have emotion when I debate. But we are talking about children … we are talking for children who can’t speak for themselves,” she said.
“I have struggled with this bill. I have struggled to understand why this is necessary. I have struggled to contemplate with everything going on in our state — people have job loss, people are dying of COVID — that this is the bill. And I have struggled when we know the devastating impact this will have on children, why this bill even got to the floor.”
House Republicans voted down 18 amendments offered by Democrats on the floor on Tuesday. Those included changes that would have carved out elementary and middle school children from the bill, prohibited genital inspections or codified the current Florida High School Athletic Association guidelines into law.
Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, gave an impassioned statement on the floor deriding assertions the bill in any way protected women.
“I for one won’t be used as a political pawn for some sick political game that pits me against my sisters,” she said.
Under the measure, students’ schools would have to resolve disputes “by requesting that the student provide a health examination and consent form or other statement signed by the student’s personal health care provider which must verify the student’s biological sex.”
The measure provides that a student’s gender would be determined by their reproductive anatomy, genetic makeup or “normal endogenously produced testosterone levels.”
Supporters argued the bill isn’t about stopping transgender athletes from playing sports, and that trans girls still may play on boys teams by meeting certain criteria, like maintaining low testosterone and submitting to a physical exam.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat and a gay man, said that argument was laughable. He compared it to when supporters of a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage argued in 2008 that a gay man could still participate in the institution of marriage by marrying a woman. The U.S. Supreme Court since ruled that unconstitutional and the argument is widely viewed as laughable now, he said.
“Soon, the transgender community will find the same broad support now enjoyed by gays, lesbians and bisexual people,” Smith said. “Civil rights movements have taught us so many important lessons on the importance of acceptance and equality for all.”