(WASHINGTON) — The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ civil rights organization, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit to challenge a Florida state law that bans transgender girls from participating in sports that correspond with their gender identity.
The law, called the “Fairness in Women Sports Act,” is one of eight laws passed this year that restrict transgender girls from participating in girls’ athletic teams. The organization plans on filing similar suits in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.
“These laws are telling transgender young people that they don’t matter, telling young transgender people that they don’t exist,” HRC President Alphonso David told ABC News in an interview. “That is the message that these elected officials are sending, which is reprehensible and dangerous.”
South Dakota, West Virginia, Montana and Alabama have also signed similar bills into law and at least 28 states across the country have introduced or considered doing the same.
The HRC’s lawsuit states that the law is in clear violation of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded school programs and institutions. In a March memo, the Department of Justice affirmed that Title IX also protects gender identity and sexual orientation.
When signing the Florida bill, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he believed it would protect the fairness of girls’ sports.
“We believe that it’s very important that the integrity of those competitions are preserved, that these opportunities are protected,” DeSantis said at an event. “In Florida, girls are going to play girl sports and boys are going to play boy sports.”
DeSantis also brought up a Connecticut lawsuit in which cisgender female athletes claimed they lost high school track events because they were competing against transgender girls.
One of the cisgender plaintiffs went on to win in a race against the transgender athletes they accused of being impossible to beat and the lawsuit was later dismissed by a federal judge as moot because the transgender students had graduated.
DeSantis’ office did not respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.
The HRC said lawmakers have not presented other examples, beyond their claims in Connecticut, where transgender girls have unfairly dominated girls athletic sports. In a press release, the organization said it will be suing on behalf of a 13-year-old Florida teen and her parents. The middle schooler, the organization said, has participated in team sports since she was 8 years old and will force her to either play on the boys’ soccer team at school or quit sports completely.
“Playing sports makes me feel like I fit in. The thought of not being able to play next year scares me,” the 13-year-old said in a statement. “I’m going to be lonely and sad if I can’t play.”
The HRC is joined by the law firm of Arnold & Porter.
David and the HRC cited higher rates of suicide, depression and anxiety for transgender students than their cisgender peers as direct consequences of discrimination and anti-trans rhetoric and policies.
“We know that every legitimate medical association in the country has opposed these anti-LGBTQ bills, and yet with all of that information, the elected officials are advancing these bills, which are directly intended to harm transgender young people,” David said.
Several groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association and the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s LGBTQ subgroups, have also penned open letters condemning the recent wave of legislation for its harm against transgender youth.
David added, “When you rid a young person of their ability to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity … you are denying their very existence and also denying them meaningful skills that they will acquire [through athletics] in order for them to be even more successful in life.”
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