JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Transgender girls cannot compete in women's sports in Florida.
Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered that controversial message on Tuesday when he signed the "Fairness In Women's Sports Act" into law.
The measure, which has been heavily criticized by both Democrats and the NCAA, states that "athletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls may not be open to students of the male sex."
DeSantis said the law ensures fairness for women athletes by basing a student's biological sex on their birth certificate at the time of their birth.
That means transgender girls who were born male but now identify as female cannot compete in public high school or college women's sports in the Sunshine State.
"We believe in the state of Florida of protecting the fairness and the integrity of women's athletics," DeSantis said during a news conference in Jacksonville. "We believe that it's very important that the integrity of those competitions are preserved. That these opportunities are protected."
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The trans-athlete ban applies to public "interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic teams or sports."
While the law bans biological males from participating in women's sports, it does allow "students of the female sex" to compete in "athletic teams or sports designated for males, men, or boys."
"We're gonna go based off biology, not based off ideology when we're doing sports," DeSantis said.
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The governor attempted to bolster his argument on Tuesday by showing short video clips of Terry Miller, a transgender girl and track star in Connecticut who's been allowed to compete in women's sports since 2017.
The footage showed Miller winning several sprinting races by a wide margin.
"You see in those races, you have all those girls who are competing, and it just wasn't a level playing field," DeSantis said.
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Selina Soule, a Connecticut track athlete who's been critical of Miller running in girls' track meets, said she's lost out on opportunities because of trans-athletes.
"My chances of being first, of being the best, were shattered," Soule said. "Everyone should have the chance to participate in sports, but they need to compete where it's most fair."
Soule is a plaintiff in a lawsuit from Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative advocacy group that's suing the Connecticut Association of Schools over its transgender-inclusive policies in sports.
DeSantis' announcement on Tuesday ironically came on the first day of Pride Month, a celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities across the world.
"It's not a message to anything other than saying, we're gonna protect fairness in women's sports," DeSantis said. "We believe it's important to have integrity in the competition, and we think it's important that they're able to compete on a level playing field."
Back in April, the NCAA passionately supported transgender athletes competing in college sports, saying "inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student-athletes, including transgender athletes, at all levels of sport."
The organization threatened to pull championship games from states like Florida, saying the NCAA will only hold championships in locations where "hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination."
Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, who has filed paperwork to run for governor in 2022, released this statement about the Sunshine State's trans-athlete ban, calling it "heartless" and "cruel":
"By signing a heartless ban on transgender kids in sports, Governor DeSantis is marginalizing an entire community. Signing it on the first day of Pride Month is especially cruel. Florida should stand for inclusivity, equality, and liberty – not peddling hate for political points."
The Florida House Democratic Caucus said the law is "mean-spirited, divisive, and could cost Floridians millions of dollars in both economic damage and lawsuits."
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ civil rights organization in the United States, has already threatened legal action over the governor's decision, saying on Twitter that "we will be filing a lawsuit to block this arbitrary, discriminatory ban."