Finger Lakes Times | By Kate Santich and Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel | Jun 30, 2021
ORLANDO, Fla. — The nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Wednesday challenging a new Florida law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation said the law is part of an “unprecedented attack on transgender youth” and announced it will also challenge similar laws in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
The federal civil rights lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 13-year-old transgender girl from Broward County — identified in a news release as “Daisy” and in the lawsuit only as “D.N.” — and her parents. An eighth-grade soccer player, D.N. has been competing on the girls team at her current middle school and, according to the suit, wants to continue playing when she reaches high school.
“Playing sports makes me feel like I fit in,” D.N. said through a news release issued by the Human Rights Campaign. “The thought of not being able to play next year scares me. I’m going to be lonely and sad if I can’t play.”
The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis June 1, bars transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports from middle school through college, including intramurals and club teams.
Florida is one of eight states to pass laws this year restricting transgender girls from participating on girls’ athletic teams.
“As a father of two daughters, I want my girls — and every girl in Florida — to compete on an even playing field for the opportunities available to young women in sports,” DeSantis said at a news conference when he signed the bill. “Women have fought for decades to have equal opportunities in athletics, and we have to prevent those opportunities from being eroded, as is happening in other states. It’s common sense.”
DeSantis’ press secretary, Christina Pushaw, said late Wednesday afternoon that the governor had not yet been served with the lawsuit, “but we believe the case to be without merit.”
The lawsuit was filed the day before the new law is slated to take effect and was not unexpected. Idaho, the first state to ban transgender females from school sports teams, quickly had its 2020 law challenged in court. That law is now on hold after a federal judge ruled Idaho could not keep transgender athletes from playing.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which helped challenge Idaho’s law, last month filed a similar lawsuit in West Virginia, arguing that state’s new law banning transgender girls and women from school sports was unconstitutional.
Bills similar to Florida’s have been proposed in more than 25 other Republican-controlled states this year. Former President Donald Trump signaled his support for this push to ban transgender athletes at his Feb. 28 speech at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was held in Orlando this year.
“It’s just crazy what’s happening,” he told the audience, saying women and girls were being “forced to compete against biological males” and that if things didn’t change “women’s sports as we know it will die.”
But critics say such complaints aren’t grounded in facts and only serve to harm transgender youngsters, who often face being ostracized by parents and classmates.
Both the Florida High School Athletic Association and the NCAA already have rules that give transgender students a way to join school sports teams, and LGBTQ advocates contend there have been no documented problems since those policies were enacted. Lawmakers said they know of just 11 transgender students cleared to play high school sports in Florida.
Most transgender females are taking hormones to suppress testosterone, the male sex hormone, and so do not have an unfair advantage over others on the team, they added.
The U.S. Department of Education also announced this month that the federal Title IX act prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in schools that received federal funds, which include Florida’s public schools.
“Given the unprecedented onslaught of state legislative attacks, we have a responsibility to utilize every tool in our belt to safeguard the LGBTQ community, including suing the states that infringe upon our civil rights,” said Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President. “On the first day of Pride Month, a moment of celebration, Governor DeSantis signed a bill into law attacking transgender children. Now, on the last day of Pride, we are sending a message to him, and all anti-equality officials, that you cannot target our community without retribution.”
In the case of D.N., the lawsuit says, she identified as a girl and wore feminine clothing as early as preschool. By age 6, she adopted the name “Daisy” and at 7 joined a girls’ soccer team. At age 11, at the recommendation of her endocrinologist, she began hormone blockers to stop testosterone. This year, under medical supervision, she began receiving estrogen, the lawsuit adds, and will continue to do so for the rest of her life.
Her parents — identified only as “Jessica N.” and “Gary N.” — “have arranged their family life to ensure their daughter can fulfill her educational and athletic dreams,” the suit says.
Since D.N. also plays soccer for a girls’ travel team and in a girls’ recreational league, the new law would “decimate her social network” and “separate her from her peers and teammates,” the lawsuit claims.
The suit was filed by the law firm Arnold & Porter in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale. It names DeSantis, the Florida High School Athletic Association, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the State Board of Education, the Broward County School Board and the county’s former superintendent, Robert Runcie.
None responded to a request for comment, but the Broward County School Board, in a ceremonial move, voted to oppose Florida’s new law June 16, saying transgender students should be able to play on the team that matches their gender identity.