TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A long-paused legal battle over Florida’s 2021 “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” has been reopened, following a joint motion to revive the case was filed on Jan. 6. The suit was first filed in June 2021, following Florida’s passage of Senate Bill 1028, which banned transgender female athletes from competing in women’s sports.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 1028 into law on June 1, saying at the time that Florida would make sure that “girls are going to play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports,” according to reporting by the Associated Press.
In a statement released to accompany the bill signing from the governor’s office, DeSantis said the move would prevent the “erosion” of women’s rights to have equal athletic opportunities.
“As a father of two daughters, I want my girls, and every girl in Florida, to compete on an even playing field for the opportunities available to young women in sports,” DeSantis said. “Women have fought for decades to have equal opportunities in athletics, and we have to prevent those opportunities from being eroded as is happening in other states. It’s common sense.”
It didn’t take long for the bill to see legal challenges, with challenges coming as soon as June 29, 2021. However, the lawsuit filed in Broward County was put on pause due to a separate, older case going through federal court from 2018.
The older case, Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, Fla., is currently challenging sex-separated bathroom legislation in Florida, and at this stage is working through the appellate process in the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeal. In the 2018 lawsuit, Drew Adams, a male transgender student, had after he was blocked from using a boys’ bathroom at his high school.
Judge Roy Altman initially delayed the Broward case over the athletics law due to the potential impact of the Adams case. Later, a decision in an Atlanta appeals court overturned a ruling that was supportive of the plaintiffs in the Adams case. As a result, Altman and the parties in the athletics case proceeded in court.
Altman dismissed the case without prejudice in February 2022. As of Friday, the case was reopened as a result of the decision in Adams. Now, both the plaintiffs and the defendants, in this case the state of Florida and its officials, will need to set a schedule for the proceedings.
The defendants have already filed a motion to dismiss the case, though while the appellate process continues, the law is stayed, meaning it is not in effect. Both parties will be back in federal court in February to continue the legal process.