TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Activists and parents were discouraged Wednesday after a House panel advanced a controversial bill banning trans girls from playing in women’s sports.
House Bill 1475 moved forward after lawmakers approved 14-3 to send it to its second of three committees.
Jesse Jones, a father to a transgender daughter, said he left the committee meeting feeling frustrated.
"I just want my daughter to grow," said Jones, a Tallahassee resident.
Jones worried she wouldn't under HB 1475. The bill prevents transgender girls from playing in women's sports at public schools, elementary through college levels.
"If she wants to participate in something, there's not a transgender team," Jones said. "There's not. Where is she going to participate? She’s not going to be part of the male team, because she's not a male."
Sponsor State Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Okeechobee, said the policy doesn't aim to discriminate but to create a level playing field for women.
She's even named her bill the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act."
"Men are biologically stronger and have athletic advantages. It’s hard to dispute," Tuck said. "While there’s a difference in opinion. I don't think there's a difference in science."
The legislation puts Florida on a list of at least 25 states where conservatives are pushing trans athlete restrictions this year.
Opponents see the bills as an attack.
"Are we going back to segregation?” asked State Rep. Marie Paule Woodson, D-Pembroke Pines, in committee.
Woodson said lawmakers should be focused elsewhere. She believed the bill was trying to fix a nonissue in Florida.
"This bill would only marginalize and demonize the transgender community," Woodson said.
With the Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee's approval, the policy now inches closer to the House floor. Two hurdles remain.
The Florida Senate has its own version of the bill. It has yet to get any traction. While that could be an early sign of impending failure, the sponsor remained confident things will change before the lawmaking session ends.
Meanwhile, Jones said he would stay committed to keeping the legislation from becoming law.
"I'll always fight for my daughter," he said.