Controversial transgender athlete bill hits hurdle and may not survive the 2021 session

By: - April 20, 2021 6:11 pm

A coach talking to soccer players. Credit: Alistair Berg, Getty Images.

As the 2021 legislative session winds down, a controversial bill legislating how transgender athletes participate in school sports looks like it’s not going to survive.

Last week, the Florida House passed a transgender athletics bill, HB 1475, and sent it over to the Senate for deliberation.

But as of Tuesday, the Senate version appears to have stalled, even as states around the country have pushed similar legislation, creating a national debate about the lives of transgender athletes.

In Florida, Senate Bill 2012 is one of two bills related to transgender athletes and how they participate in sports, dictating that transwomen could only play on women’s teams if their testosterone levels were below a certain threshold.

That Senate bill was slated to be discussed Tuesday, but bill sponsor, Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Republican who represents parts of Lake and Polk counties, decided to temporarily postpone the bill — which she’s done before.

Later, in a statement provided to the Tampa Bay Times, Stargel indicated that the bill might not be a priority for her at this point in the legislative session. The two-month 2021 Florida session is scheduled to end April 30.

As chair of the influential Senate’s Appropriations Committee, Stargel is focusing on completing and passing the state budget for 2021-22 in the waning days of the session. “I don’t know that we will have sufficient time to revisit SB 2012 this session,” she said in a statement.

The House and Senate version differ in significant ways.

While SB 2012 would have allowed some transgender women to play on women’s sports teams so long as their testosterone levels were below a certain threshold, the House bill would bar all transgender people from playing on a sports team that aligns with their gender identity.

Instead, the House bill would differentiate sports teams based on athletes’ genders assigned at birth.

Meaning that, under HB 1475, transmen would play on women’s sports teams, and trans women would play on men’s teams.

A contentious point in the House version is what happens when an athlete’s gender is questioned, suggesting that a student’s sex assigned at birth would be determined by a medical professional through three methods: a student’s genetic make-up, their testosterone levels, or their reproductive anatomy.

Athletes as young as elementary school-age might be subjected to “genital exams” and blood-tests in order to confirm the student is playing on the correct team, in a measure which critics of the bill referred to as “legislating sexual assault against children.”

The Senate could potentially regain momentum if Stargel decides to prioritize the legislation.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.