Restrictions on trans athletes continue to advance in Florida Senate

'They're not playing dress-up,' Sen. Gary Farmer says
Posted at 7:34 PM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 19:35:03-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida took another step toward restricting trans athletes Wednesday morning. A Senate panel advanced a bill that could ban transgender girls from playing in high school or college women's sports.

A similar measure in the House has also made similar progress suggesting both chambers have an appetite for the legislation this year.

The Senate Health Policy Committee's clearance came as the nation recognized Trans Day of Visibility. A frustrating coincidence for Chloe Ilcus, a staunch opponent of SB 2012.

Chloe Ilcus, Florida State University student who opposes bill restricting trans athletes in Florida
Chloe Ilcus, a Florida State University student, says the bill is a "clear attack on trans rights."

"As a nonbinary person, this is a clear attack on trans rights," Ilcus said. "All these people in power are using their platform to attack an already extremely vulnerable population."

Specifically, the legislation forbids trans athletes from playing in women's sports if testosterone levels exceed Olympic standards.

State Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, is pushing the bill. She said it's not designed as an attack but an attempt at equality.

"What I am trying to do is protect women's sports to be competitive for women," Stargel said. "Or people who are of a similar strength as women."

Members of the GOP majority continue to agree on the bill in committee, passing two so far.

State Sen. Kelli Stargel
State Sen. Kelli Stargel says the bill doesn't attack anyone personally but is rooted in creating a fair playing field.

"I can stand out here in the garage all day convinced I'm an automobile," said Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake, during committee discussion. "But it doesn't make me an automobile."

Democrats have almost universally opposed the bill. Some argued SB 2012 is far from fair treatment.

In debate, Sen. Minority Leader Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, told fellow lawmakers the measure threatened to strip children of their ability to enjoy competitive athletics.

"They're not playing dress-up," Farmer said. "They are recognizing who they are."

Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens, said the state risked losing high-profile sporting events if lawmakers moved forward.

"I'll put it out there," Jones said. "I hope the NCAA pulls out of Florida ... if we pass this type of legislation."

The Senate bill faces one last committee before reaching the floor.

For Ilcus, it's one more chance to change minds.

"Find it in your heart to do the right thing and protect trans students," Ilcus said.