(Adds comments from DeSantis, details on provision)
June 1 (Reuters) - Florida on Tuesday became the latest and by far the largest U.S. state to ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports, part of a campaign in statehouses nationwide this year assailed as discriminatory by equal rights activists.
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who is closely aligned with former President Donald Trump, signed the bill into law on the first day of Pride Month, which celebrates the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community.
DeSantis signed the bill at an event at a Christian school in Jacksonville where he was flanked by several teenage women athletes. He said the law was needed to ensure fairness for women participating in sports across the state.
“I can tell you this: in Florida, girls are going to play girls’ sports and boys are going to play boys’ sports,” the governor said. “We are going to go based off biology, not based off ideology when we are doing sports.”
Supporters of the sports bills say transgender female athletes have an unfair advantage, having been designated male at birth but having since transitioned.
The legislation, rushed through the state legislature as an attachment to a charter school bill, passed over the objection of Democrats and civil rights advocates who call the banning of transgender girls and women from sports unnecessary and discriminatory and accuse Republicans of portraying them as a provocation to energize the right wing of their party.
The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group, said it would challenge the law in court as having been based on a “false, discriminatory premise” that threatened the wellbeing of transgender children.
“Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls. Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement.
Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee and West Virginia have passed similar legislation and South Dakota’s governor has signed an executive order supporting a sports ban. All have Republican governors.
Nearly 14% of U.S. President Joe Biden’s 1,500 federal agency appointees identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, he said on Tuesday in a proclamation marking the start of Pride Month.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, California; Editing by Howard Goller
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