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6 states considering legislation to restrict transgender student athletes

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Lawmakers in New Hampshire, Washington, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri and Alabama are the latest to try to restrict participation in sports according to a student athlete’s gender presumed at birth.

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Trans pride flags flutter in the wind at a gathering to celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, 2017 at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles, California.
Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

UPDATE, Jan. 10, 2020: Alabama joins New Hampshire, Washington, Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri to become the sixth state actively seeking restrictions on transgender student athletes. AL.com reports State Rep. Chris Pringle of Mobile, Ala. is sponsoring the “Gender is Real Legislative (GIRL) Act” for the upcoming legislative session. According to the bill, which is similar to one introduced in Tennessee, public schools would not be permitted to participate in, sponsor, or provide coaches for athletic events conducted under the authority of any athletic association that allows students whose birth certificates show them to be male to participate in events conducted exclusively for so-called “biological females.” The same prohibition would go for females competing against males. Also, counties, cities and other local government entities would not be allowed to let their fields, stadiums, and other facilities be used for competitions that allow players to compete in events that conflict with their so-called “biological gender.” Pringle is a Republican candidate for Congress. Read his bill by clicking here.

UPDATE, Jan. 9, 2020: Our original story focused on two states taking action to prevent transgender student athletes from competing according to their gender identity, Tennessee and Washington State. Then we updated it to include a third, Georgia, and now we are aware of two more.

The Wall Street Journal reports New Hampshire and Missouri have joined Georgia, Tennessee and Washington State in drafting measures aimed at preventing athletes from competing in girls’ sports, what the newspaper referred to as “categories different than their biological sex.” Lawmakers filing these bills say they are specifically concerned about female athletes facing unfair competition.

The conservative-leaning WSJ portrays these actions as a reflection of growing attention around the issue of whether transgender-rights protections are leading to unfair competition in women’s sports.

State and local school associations typically set their own policies regulating the eligibility of transgender high-school athletes and can vary widely. In about one third of all states, transgender students can freely compete on teams of the gender which with they identify, according to transathlete.com, which tracks athletics policies nationwide.

UPDATE Dec. 23, 2019: A newly-elected state lawmaker in Georgia has introduced legislation that would ban teams from using public facilities if transgender children are competing in single-gender sporting events that don’t align with their gender identified at birth.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Republican State Rep. Philip Singleton of Sharpsburg, Ga. said he filed the bill because he didn’t want anyone to have an “unfair advantage.”

“The Student Athlete Protection Act is designed to ensure that biological boys will only compete in sports against other biological boys and vice-versa for girls,” Singleton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The intent of my bill is to make sure every student has the opportunity to compete fairly.”

Georgia follows Washington State and Tennessee in proposing anti-transgender measures.

ORIGINAL REPORT, Dec. 18, 2019: After a year marked by legislative attacks on transgender people across the nation and at the federal level, politicians in two more states are ending 2019 by targeting transgender students with new bills that would restrict their participation in sports.

Legislation proposed in Tennessee, HB 1572, would require “elementary and secondary schools that receive public funding to ensure that student athletes participate in school-sanctioned sports based on the student’s biological sex as indicated by the athlete’s original birth certificate issued at birth.”

The bill makes clear that there is no exception for revised or amended birth certificates, meaning that biological sex, not gender identity, would be the sole factor in determining for which teams an athlete could play.

If this bill were to become law, schools that didn’t comply would be “immediately ineligible to continue receiving state and local public funds.” Funding would only be restored, “if the department of education and a court of competent jurisdiction find that the school is in compliance” with the new law.

While that bill would affect all trans student athletes, a bill being proposed in Washington State targets trans women and girls, specifically. State Representative Brad Klippert is introducing House Bill 2201, according to KEPR-TV. His bill would prohibit students assigned male at birth from competing “with and against female students in athletic activities.”

The proposed law would only apply to sports where there are separate classifications for male and female students, and only to sports restricted to female competitors, and it must be an individual competition sport, like golf, swimming or track and field, according to KEPR-TV.

“It’s been brought to my attention on multiple occasions by constituents, athletes who ‘s first gender was male are competing against females and dominating sports,” Klippert told KEPR-TV.

Klippert claims his bill isn’t about transgender athletes as much as it is about women’s rights.

“I’m running this in support of female athletes, so they can compete against each other and not have to compete against male athletes who have different hormones flowing through their veins which gives them much more muscle capacity,” Klippert said.

In response to the proposed legislation, the branch of PFLAG issued this statement:

“To date there has been absolutely no evidence that transgender or non-binary athletes pose any serious danger to any sport in which they participate. This bill is at its core an attempt to invalidate transgender and gender non-binary identity. We stand in firm opposition to this bill, and any other proposed law of this type. Transgender people are people, non-binary people are people, they are entitled to a recognition of who they are and to have their civil rights and basic dignity honored. We invite proponents of this law to meet with us so that they can better understand the harm policy proposals like this are doing to the community at large and especially to LGBTQ+ students.”

Klippert said, as far as he knows, there are no documented cases locally or even at the state level that would be impacted by his proposed law, according to KEPR-TV.

The Washington legislature opens for the 2020 session next month.

Several other states have taken action against transgender Americans in 2019. The Freedom for All Americans website has a legislation tracker for those measures. Click here to view.