Florida House Passes Bill Protecting "Girls-Only" Athletics — Genitalia Inspections Included

AP Photo/Phil Sears

By a vote of 70-44 along party lines, the GOP-dominated Florida House of Representatives passed HB 1475 which provides for “girls-only” athletic contests in grades K-12 for Florida schoolchildren.The measure must pass the Florida Senate before it would go to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature.

This followed news yesterday that the Alabama Legislature had passed similar legislation, as was reported here by my RedState colleague Alex Parker.

Just in the past few weeks, we have seen this issue develop and advance in at least seven different states, by my count — off the top of my head as I type — South Dakota, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia, and now Florida. GOP-controlled legislatures continue to push forward on this issue, in the face of what is certain to be opposition from the Biden Administration and the NCAA. The NY Times reports that as many as 30 states have some form of legislation in the works addressing the issue of transgender participation in sports.

The Human Rights Campaign is one of several groups that has sent letters to the N.C.A.A. calling for a tougher response to bills that have emerged in at least 30 states this session.

As I noted in this story earlier last week, the NCAA has now come out and expressly stated that it will take the passage of laws like this into consideration in determining what states will be selected to host NCAA championship events in the future — and its commitment to that announcement is going to be tested very soon when it has to announce playing sites for the upcoming College Baseball and Softball National Championship tournaments.

When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected. We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.

If I had great confidence in the calculating abilities of GOP state legislators and governors, I might suspect that there is a bit of “We dare you” attitude behind this seemingly purposeful advancement of these policies in multiple states that the NCAA will find it uncomfortable to sanction in the manner it has announced. If we could just get Texas and Arizona — states with powerhouse college baseball and softball teams — that will really put the NCAA to a test of the courage of their convictions. As noted in my earlier story, the sites for the Championship in Baseball is Omaha, Nebraska, and for Softball it is Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — two more red states with the GOP in control of the state governments. The states that have advanced legislation should be leaning on those states to get on board and support them, as it is inconceivable to me that the NCAA would ever dare to move those two tournaments to other states.

Returning to the Florida legislation, as noted it was passed only by the Florida House, and is still pending before the Florida Senate. But it requires only one more vote in committee before it should advance to the full Senate for a final vote. The Senate has 40 members, and the partisan makeup currently favors the GOP by a 24-16 margin.

Gov. DeSantis — with clear ambitions for a White House run in 2024 — understands the politics of the issue, given the criticism leveled at South Dakota Gov, Kristi Noem for sending legislation on the same subject back to the South Dakota Legislature for changes. He also witnessed last week the gutting of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson after he vetoed legislation that would have prohibited medical procedures on children designed to advance the “sex change” process, only to have his veto overridden.  Hutchison did sign earlier legislation protecting “girls-only” athletic competitions.

House Bill 1475 as passed does include some provisions that are certain to be controversial when they are called out by hostile media — although I’m not sure why they should be.

The bill, which is modeled after an Idaho law … allows a school or competitor to lodge a complaint about an athlete competing in a girls’ or woman’s sport. If the party complaining suspects the athlete was not assigned the female gender at birth, the athlete in question will have to prove their birth gender — via a genetic test, a test of their testosterone levels or an examination of their reproductive anatomy by a medical professional — in order to compete.

As the father of five, all of whom have played or are playing school sports, state law requires that each participant undergo a physical examination by a licensed physician who must sign a form confirming that the child is physically cleared for athletic competition. The form has to be signed within 365 days of submission — meaning a new one is required every year before the child is eligible to participate.

The opponents of this legislation will certainly focus on the requirement that the participant’s “birth gender” be confirmed by one of the three methods set forth, the cheapest and easiest of which will be an examination by a medical professional. Why it is objectionable that a medical professional identifies the “birth gender” of the child in the same manner the professional certifies the child is healthy and able to participate seems like an exercise in sophism to me.

The legislation does leave to the State Board of Education the particulars for establishing rules on how this law shall be implemented and enforced — how the “complaint” process contemplated by the law should be established and operated.

The next 90 days could see this issue begin to shift from state legislatures into federal courts, as liberal interest groups like the ACLU have been quick to pull the trigger on lawsuits challenging these laws.  Such attacks could lead to even greater coordination among the States’ Attorneys General in defending against such attacks.

I’ll get the popcorn.