TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida House on Wednesday approved a GOP-proposed ban on transgender female athletes joining female athletic teams in high school and college sports by a 77-40 vote.

What You Need To Know

  • House Bill 1475 would affect transgender student athletes if passed

  •  It would ban athletes born male from competing in female sports

  • Republican lawmakers made the bill a priority following President Biden's executive order on transgender athletes

  • The state Senate's companion bill still must be approved

The companion bill in the state Senate still has to pass before legislation makes it to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk for his signature. The vote in the House followed party lines.

Florida is one of more than 30 other states with bills aiming to force transgender athletes to play on teams for their sex assigned at birth.

In House Bill 1475, lawmakers are proposing a ban on athletes born male, from competing in female sports, but it allows anyone born female to compete in any sport.

Rep. Chris Latvala says the bill is based in science.

“Boys and men are faster and stronger than women. That’s just genetics and that’s just science,” he said. “We’re not targeting the LGBT community and we’re not targeting the trans community. We’re just, in my mind, we’re protecting women’s access to sports.”

Supporters of the LGBTQ community say the bill is just discriminatory. Tampa Bay Rowdies player Zach Steinberger is a member of the LGBTQ organization Athlete Ally. While he says as a straight man he can’t identify personally with those trans athletes, he plans to continue to fight for their rights. 

“No matter what you identify as, no matter what or how you’re born it’s something that should be a safe and free environment," he said. "And to try and take that away from somebody is, that’s dismantling to me. That is so un-American."

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) issued this response to the legislation:

“The NCAA Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports. This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition.

The NCAA has a long-standing policy that provides a more inclusive path for transgender participation in college sports. Our approach — which requires testosterone suppression treatment for transgender women to compete in women’s sports — embraces the evolving science on this issue and is anchored in participation policies of both the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student-athletes, including transgender athletes, at all levels of sport. Our clear expectation as the Association’s top governing body is that all student-athletes will be treated with dignity and respect. We are committed to ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them.

When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected. We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”

The United States Tennis Association told Spectrum News that it supports the NCAA's position, and that could affect tournaments scheduled for Florida.

House Democrats had hoped that would weigh enough on Republicans to defeat the bill, but ultimately, it did not.

"You cannot vote for this bill and say that you love God and say that you love people and you're willing to put God's people, God's children, his babies, in a position that is untenable," state Rep. Michele Rayer (D-St. Petersburg) said.

Lawmakers said the bill was made a priority during this legislative session as a response to President Joe Biden’s executive order about transgender athletes.  

Democrats pushed back against this legislation, filing 19 amendments trying to weaken it.

Democrat Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando had called on the House to add a provision that would allow transgender students to sue the school if they feel they've been deprived of an athletic opportunity.

He has not given up on stopping final approval of the legislation, despite GOP control of the state Senate, too.

Spectrum News' Jonathan Alba contributed to this report.