The bill, called the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, would require that anyone participating in girls and women's sports at the K-12 and college level be biologically eligible to do so. If challenged, they would have to get confirmation from a health care provider that they are female. That could include a doctor examining their genitals.
"The act is pro-women and pro-girls and only acknowledges the biological differences between men and women," said Republican Rep. Kaylee Tuck, the bill's sponsor.
But Democrats slammed the proposal, calling it discriminatory against transgender girls and women.
Republicans in Congress and more than 20 state legislatures are pushing for similar bans, though supporters, including Tuck, largely haven’t been able to cite examples of transgender students’ participation causing problems.
The House Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee voted 13-4 to approve the bill, with all "no" votes cast by Democrats. The measure is based on an Idaho law that has been blocked by a federal court while a lawsuit challenging its legality proceeds.
Tuck used Allyson Felix as an example. Felix is the only woman to win six track and field gold medals in the Olympics.
"Allyson Felix is the fastest woman in the world... but yet the personal best in the 400 meters can be beaten by hundreds of high school boys," Tuck said. "If we allow biological males to compete in athletic events against biological females, we may never see another Allyson Felix again."
Democrats who opposed the bill said there wasn't an existing problem in Florida, and Tuck acknowledged she was unaware of any disputes about transgender students participating in female athletics.
Democratic Rep. Marie Paule Woodson said the bill is a dangerous piece of legislation that could lead to an attack on a group that is already vulnerable.
"Transgender have been ridiculed, they have been bullied, they are hated by so many, and if we're talking about love — loving each other — it should not be based on condition of who you are," Woodson said. "This bill will only marginalize and demonize the transgender community."
Conservatives lawmakers across the nation are responding to an executive order by Democratic President Joe Biden that bans discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere, which he signed the day he took office. Mississippi became the first state this year to enact such a ban when the state's governor signed it into law last week.
The Florida bill has two more committee stops in the House. A similar Senate bill hasn't received its first hearing.
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