A federal judge in Tallahassee, Florida, has recently dismissed a challenge to the state’s law that prohibits transgender students who are biological males from participating in women’s and girls’ sports teams. U.S. District Judge Roy Altman issued a 39-page decision on Monday, granting a request by attorneys representing Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. and the State Board of Education to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of a transgender high-school volleyball player.
In his ruling, Judge Altman stated that the controversial law does not violate constitutional equal-protection and due-process rights, as well as Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs. However, he did leave open the possibility for the transgender student’s attorneys to file a revised lawsuit based on equal-protection and Title IX issues.
The state’s attorneys argued that the law was enacted to ensure athletic opportunities for girls and women who wish to participate in interscholastic or college sports. They claimed that these opportunities could be compromised by the inclusion of transgender females who are biological males. Judge Altman agreed, stating that promoting women’s equality in athletics is a vital governmental interest and that the law is not rooted in stereotypes, but rather in real differences between the sexes.
Furthermore, Altman emphasized that the law does not create a discriminatory system that degrades transgender girls based on their gender identity. He compared it to other laws that protect public safety, such as prohibiting the blind from flying airplanes or those infected with HIV from donating blood. Altman concluded that the law serves the important and well-established governmental interest of promoting gender equality by preserving athletic opportunities for girls.
The lawsuit was filed by the transgender girl’s attorneys in June 2021 after the ban was approved by Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis. The case was put on hold while the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considered a separate case involving a transgender male student’s bathroom usage rights. After the appeals court upheld a policy preventing the transgender male student from using boys’ bathrooms, Altman reopened the transgender-athlete case.
The attorneys representing the transgender volleyball player argued that the law is part of a larger national effort to discriminate against and scapegoat transgender individuals. They highlighted the increasing legislative hostility towards LGBTQ individuals in Florida and across the country. However, the state countered these arguments in their motion to dismiss, stating that the law’s sex-based classification is constitutionally permissible due to the state’s important governmental interests in protecting biological females’ equal participation in school athletics and addressing past under-representation of females in sports.
In conclusion, Judge Altman’s ruling upholds the Florida law that bans transgender students who are biological males from competing on women’s and girls’ sports teams. The decision emphasizes the state’s interest in promoting gender equality and ensuring athletic opportunities for girls while maintaining that the law does not violate constitutional rights.