TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s transgender athlete ban has cleared the House.
Lawmakers approved the controversial policy this evening 77 to 40. It would keep transgender females from participating in K-12 and collegiate women’s sports.
Not a single Republican broke rank, Wednesday evening. All voted in favor of HB 1475 while facing strong Democratic opposition during a debate full of fears and tears.
“You cannot vote for this bill and say that you love God, and say that you love people and you're willing to put God's people, God's children in a position that is untenable," said Rep. Michele Rayner, D-St. Petersburg.
Despite the opposition, the policy's supporters cheered its approval. Sponsor Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Sebring, said passage was a win for female athletes across Florida.
“We're trying to make sure that women can compete on a level playing field," she said. "And make sure they don't become sideline spectators of their own sports.”
The legislation is similar to policies moving in statehouses across the country this year. Gay and transgender rights groups have denounced them as unfair and dangerous to students.
“It is telling them you're not wanted here," said Nathan Bruemmer, St. Pete Pride President. "These legislators that are pushing this rhetoric through are shutting the doors in the faces of our children.”
The NCAA has also warned those approving the policy could lose championship games. Florida has at least 50 scheduled over five years worth millions in economic impact.
It's a threat Republican leaders have dismissed as speculative and hollow.
“Our message, the governor’s message, it’s certainly my message," said Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, "the state of Florida is not going to be bullied by any corporate actor.”
The Senate is now set to receive the bill, where lawmakers continue to mull their version, a less intense policy based on testosterone, not biological sex.
Opponents said they hope the upper chamber will have less appetite as the measure moves forward.
Adding credence to that, the SB 2012's sponsor recently postponed the bill in its final committee. At last check, lawmakers had yet to reschedule it for discussion.