Attorney Rosalyn Richter on Florida’s Anti-trans Sports Ban

Attorney Rosalyn Richter on Florida’s Anti-trans Sports Ban

A number of anti-LGBTQIA+ bills, seventeen in all, have been enacted across the country recently, seven of those targeting trans youth participation in sports. One, the Anti-trans Sports Ban, would force children to participate on sports teams that do not align with their gender identity.

Legislators and Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida have claimed this bill is to protect girls in sports, but, in reality, it would force them to play on boys teams. Furthermore, there are no examples of trans children having a competitive advantage over anyone. What these bans do is threaten the mental health of trans youth, as they are a rejection of someone’s gender identity. This practice stems from transgender conversion therapy, which forces transgender people to conform to cigender and gender-conforming ideals. 

However, many kids affected by the sports ban are not backing down without a fight. A courageous 13-year-old girl named Daisy in Broward County, Fla., decided to sue DeSantis for the Anti-trans Sports Bill, which would force her to come out to her classmates and play on the boys soccer and basketball teams. 

Rosalyn Richter is Daisy’s lawyer in the case. For more than a decade, she served as an associate justice in the appellate division of the New York Supreme Court and is currently senior counsel at the firm Arnold & Porter. Over the summer, The New Station spoke with Richter to get her opinion on the case and the bill itself.  

Photo courtesy of ArnoldPorter.com

THE NEWS STATION: What made you decide to take on this case? 

ROSALYN RICHTER: I have a very long history in the LGBTQIA+ community. Decades ago I was the executive director of the Lambda Legal Defense Fund. My firm and I were contacted last year in connection with a case called Hecox v. Little. It involves a similar law to the one in Florida. It prohibits trans girls in Idaho from playing on the team that aligns with their gender identity. This case is on appeal in the federal circuit court.

The firm was asked to file an amicus curiae brief, which is a friend of the court brief, and I began working on that. Then we were contacted by the co-council Human Rights Campaign Fund. They found out we wrote this brief. We’re glad to be of service. 

TNS: A lot of legislators claim this bill is to protect women. However, this is directly harming women, especially young girls who now cannot comfortably participate in sports. What are your thoughts on that?

RR: A lot of what we have to say is in the complaint we filed. I will say this: We all believe in fairness and equality. When you look at the legislative history of Florida, this bill is really aimed at the discrimination towards transgender girls. 

First, there really is no problem in Florida or anywhere else that anyone needs to address. Transgender girls have been competing in girls sports for a while. The schools, districts, parents and teams have been managing this for years.

There was an existing procedure in place at high schools already. There was a protocol in place where the High School Athletics Association was addressing these very small number of incidents where a transgender girl wanted to compete and someone questioned it. This procedure is something that is not commonly known or publicized. Additionally, as our complaint indicates, the Broward County School Board has a broad and inclusive policy. 

Everyone is managing this. Individual teams, parents and coaches can address this. Almost everyone who wants to play just wants to play. These are not all going to be future Olympians. They are girls who just want to play sports. Excluding all girls who want to play does not make it fair. 

TNS: I did a bit of research on the bill, and it is my understanding that it is in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1979, correct?

ROSALYN RICHTER: Correct. That is our position. 

TNS: How can the governor get away with passing a bill that clearly violates this amendment? 

ROSALYN RICHTER: You will have to ask our opponents that question. Our position is based on a case called Bostock. The U.S. Supreme Court said that in the context of Title Seven, discrimination against transgender individuals is sex discrimination. This is another related circuit break statute. 

The federal government in the current administration has said the same thing. They have asked all relevant agencies to look at their rules and regulations to make sure they are in compliance with this statute. I can’t explain what our opponent’s position is. 

TNS: I want to get to know a little more about Daisy. How long has she been playing sports for? 

ROSALYN RICHTER: She’s been playing since probably kindergarten or earlier. She loves sports, and soccer is her passion. She also plays basketball and is interested in playing volleyball as well. As the complaint indicates, she is on at least three different soccer teams.

Some kids play musical instruments. She plays sports. That is what she loves to do. This is basically her identity. It has become a part of who she is as she grows up. 

It’s not just that she likes playing, but she likes being a part of a team. Everything she does is a team sport, so it’s not like she is a marathon runner. 

Apart from her passion, it gives her an opportunity to build a social network with other girls on the team. There are a lot of important life lessons present: Cooperation, compromise and leadership. Skills you need in life that all adolescents struggle with. Not being able to be a part of a team would be more than just not being able to play. She would lose the benefit of the coaches and connecting with her peers. This is important to her. 

TNS: How is Daisy feeling about this, given the fact she is only 13? 

ROSALYN RICHTER: I don’t want to speak for her. Unfortunately we just can’t out her. She is a young person, and not only that, but it is tough enough to be an adolescent, let alone one as a plaintiff in a case. I think she has a lot of pride that she and her parents are taking this issue on, and I just want to note her parents are 100% behind her. They are fully supportive of her embracing her dreams. 

I also think she is a teenager and would just like to play. She would prefer not to be in the middle of a lawsuit or political issue. She and her family are not doing this for political reasons. If this law did not exist and there was no issue, she would be like any other kid enjoying the summer. Working on her practice skills making sure she is in shape for tryouts. I think she would prefer to just go back to her life. 

TNS: What would it mean for Daisy to be able to continue playing on the girls team? 

ROSALYN RICHTER: I think that kids have hopes and dreams. It would just be a complete upending of a young person’s life. Not just physical but social as well. We all know exercise is good because teenagers have a lot of energy. Saying to someone, “This is what you love to do, where all your friends are and gives you self-esteem, but you can’t do that anymore,” then that passion is taken away. 

It is not an option to play on the boys team. She is not a boy physically. She would be physically hurt by estrogen treatment. She would be bullied. It is the girls team or nothing, as both a legal, practical and personal matter. The boys would not want her on the team, and neither would the coaches. It is as if someone said, “Any girl can go play on the boys team.” It looks like a great paper option, but it is not an option at all.

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