This year, state legislators across the United States have introduced 35 bills restricting transgender youth from participating in sports aligned with their gender identity.

In Florida, HB 1475, seeking to ban transgender athletes from participating in sex-segregated athletics passed the Florida House and died in the Senate. An amendment was added at the last moment to SB 1028 and was passed by the Republican majority — amid an outcry from Democrats during the controversial late-night session.

Florida is among about 30 states where Republican lawmakers have seized on the transgender-athlete issue after it was highlighted by conservative leadership at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). To be clear, Republicans are purposely harming children, specifically transgender students, for political gain.

If signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, transgender youth will be banned from participating in school sports in Florida.

To say we are deeply disappointed by these fear-mongering actions would be an understatement. Transgender youth deserve equal chances to learn teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership and self-discipline, and to build a sense of belonging with their peers. Don’t we deserve to belong in our communities?

Sadly, this bill is not the only one trying to restrict transgender women from participating in sports. The New York Times reports, citing the ACLU, that at least 25 states have had similar bills introduced during this year’s legislative sessions. This demonstrates a well-funded, coordinated effort to harm LGBTQ youth. While, as a nation, we try to heal and re-unify now that President Trump is out of office, conservative states are attacking children for political gain. Where is their compassion and human decency?

This fight is much bigger than state-level legislation. Earlier this year, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at protecting LGBTQ rights. That order said, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room or school sports.”

Legislators in the U.S. House, under the leadership of David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, has also reintroduced the Equality Act, which would establish federal non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community at the highest level of government. On the opposing side of history, Trump made anti-trans bills, such as HB1475, and its Senate companion SB2012, and those seen across the country a priority for his party at CPAC this year.

As we advocate for LGBTQ rights in Florida, we are disheartened to see legislators turn their backs on the community and support a bill that directly harms and ostracizes children that are living as their authentic selves.

Why are we discriminating against any student by banning them from playing sports just because they’re transgender? Transgender students want the same opportunity to play sports that every student does: to be a part of a team, give back to a collective pursuit, and feel like they belong.

In the end, these legislators are harming children to score points with their conservative base. They also are wasting taxpayer dollars on what will go to court and certainly be struck down as unconstitutional.

They know better, but are intent on hurting children for their political gain.