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Perhaps it was just a big, unfortunate coincidence.
But it feels more like an insult that Gov. Ron DeSantis chose June 1, the first day of LGBTQ Pride Month, to sign Florida’s biggest anti-LGBT bill in recent history banning transgender women and girls from playing sports.
Perhaps the irony was lost on him that Pride Month celebrates the Stonewall Riots that ushered in the LGBTQ rights movement. Perhaps DeSantis doesn’t care to know about that history, or purposely chose June 1 so he could generate controversy that helps him with the GOP’s conservative base.
It could have been even worse. The deadline for DeSantis to sign the bill is June 12, the five-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting that left 49 people dead at a gay nightclub.
When asked whether the timing of the bill signing was meant to send a message, DeSantis said, “It’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness and women’s sports,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Regardless, it’s hard to ignore that June 1 is the day DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1028 into law during an event at — of all places — a Christian school in Jacksonville.
The message had already been sent by the Republican-controlled Legislature when it treated banning transgender girls from sports as a priority during a global pandemic. After the bill sponsor said the measure was probably dead, it was attached at the last minute to another bill dealing with charter schools and passed along party lines.
Apparently, that’s how much lawmakers thought transgender athletes are a problem.
The reality is that, since 2015, only 11 trans kids have gone through the process to play sports set up by the Florida High School Athletic Association. Of those 11 students, only two played women’s sports. One of them was on a bowling team, and it’s unknown what sport the other played.
That means the Legislature went to great lengths to pass a bill that would have affected two athletes (maybe a couple more at the college level) over a span of six years. This bill dealt with an issue for which the FHSAA and the NCAA already had policies and processes in place.
Here’s how lawmakers could have had real impact: by passing a bill to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination in employment, housing and public spaces. Despite being introduced year after year and having bipartisan support, that measure has never advanced far enough in Tallahassee.
But Republicans’ true intent isn’t to fix an issue. No, this is about something else: giving DeSantis one more issue to brag about on Fox News as he sets himself up as the next Donald Trump ahead of the 2024 presidential primaries.