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Tennessee joins Arkansas, Mississippi in banning girls and women from school sports

These atrocities are being reported as a ‘trans ban’ when in fact what these Republican governors have done is violated the U.S. Constitution.

Gov. Bill Lee of TN, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Ark. and Gov. Tate Reeves of Miss. talk to reporters in photos laid over a shredded copy of the U.S. Constitution.
Three Republican governors and a shredded U.S. Constitution. From left to right, Gov. Bill Lee of TN, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Ark. and Gov. Tate Reeves of Miss.
Lee: PAULA OSPINA/ The Jackson Sun via Imagn Content Services, LLC; Hutchinson: JAMIE MITCHELL/TIMES RECORD via Imagn Content Services, LLC; Reeves: AP Photo

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is the latest Republican lawmaker to ban girls and women from school sports.

Transgender girls are girls; Transgender women are women.

Lee signed SB228 into law Friday, a ban that does not mention “transgender” even once. It does go into painful, misgendering detail about “boys who are male in every biological respect,” who can, under “new school policies” then “compete in girls’ athletic competitions if they claim a female gender identity.”

What the law states is that students who want to compete in school sports must provide an “original” birth certificate proving their gender a birth, and that if that document is changed or amended, than evidence must be provided to show the student’s gender as recorded at the time of their birth.

Lee tweeted that he signed SB228 “to preserve women’s athletics and ensure fair competition. This legislation responds to damaging federal policies that stand in opposition to the years of progress made under Title IX.”

He did not specify what “damaging federal policies” he was referring to in his tweet, but one might draw the conclusion he meant President Biden’s executive order, issued on his first day in office, which 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.”

“It is hard to keep up with the avalanche of anti-transgender bills, but please know that we will never give up fighting to protect transgender and nonbinary young people,” said Sam Brinton, VP of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “They deserve access to the same opportunities as their peers. This discriminatory policy is illegal,” they added.

Kudos to Rep. Eddie Mannis, an out gay Republican from Knoxville, Tenn., who called on lawmakers to reconsider the bill, saying that it would only further marginalize teens and do more harm.

“When we look at things like this we need to look at the risk versus the reward, or the cost and benefits, so to speak,” Mannis said. “The cost is continuing to marginalize, even more, a community and the suicide rate can continue to increase, and the benefit is what? There’s not a measurable problem here.”

Mannis told his fellow lawmakers there is no data supporting claims that transgender athletes are preventing other athletes from earning scholarships, or that they intentionally play for a competitive advantage.

Tennessee’s bill-signing followed the second anti-LGBTQ bill to hit the desk of Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas this week. Hutchinson signed into law two pieces of legislation that, along with Tennessee’s new law and legislation signed earlier this month by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, stand in stark contrast to the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, guaranteeing equal protection under the law.

On Thursday, Hutchinson also banned girls and women from school sports by signing the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which, like Tennessee’s new law, does not mention transgender student-athletes at all; it does go on in detail about boys and “biological sex.” It also cites a 2019 paper co-authored by researcher Tommy Lundberg, about the allegedly negligible effects of “gender-affirming treatment” that was also used by World Rugby to support its ban on trans women athletes.

“This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition,” Hutchinson said of the new law.

Unless challenged in court, as happened in Idaho last year, Arkansas’s new law goes into effect this summer.

That challenge appears to be a certainty, based on an all-caps tweet by American Civil Liberties Union attorney Chase Strangio: “WE WILL SEE YOU IN COURT.”

Human Rights Campaign denounced the new law.

The other bill Hutchinson signed today strips away the rights of some Americans to access appropriate medical care based on how they are perceived by healthcare providers. They might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, Black, Asian, Muslim, or in some other way representative of a marginalized group.

Friday’s bill signing of SB289, which is called “the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act,” will allow doctors to refuse to treat someone because of their moral or religious objections, according to the Associated Press.

The act essentially enshrines the right of health care workers and institutions to discriminate, by allowing them to opt-out of non-emergency treatments that they feel violate their conscience. Despite objections that this new law will give medical providers broad powers to turn away LGBTQ patients and anyone their conscience tells them they should not treat, Hutchinson said he reversed his opposition to an earlier version of this bill and supported SB289 because of changes made by Republican lawmakers.

“The bill was changed to ensure that the exercise of the right of conscience is limited to ‘conscience-based objections to a particular health care service,’” the governor said. “I support this right of conscience so long as emergency care is exempted and conscience objection cannot be used to deny general health service to any class of people. Most importantly, the federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, and national origin continue to apply to the delivery of healthcare services.”

The ACLU took a far dimmer view, however.

“There is no sugarcoating this: this bill is another brazen attempt to make it easier to discriminate against people and deny Arkansans the health care services they need,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “Religious liberty is a fundamental right, but it is not an excuse to discriminate against people or deny them health care. As Governor Hutchinson himself recognized when he opposed nearly identical legislation in 2017, discrimination is not an Arkansas value — no matter how politicians try to disguise it. Discrimination on the basis of sex — including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity — is a violation of federal law, and so we’ll be watching and working to ensure no Arkansan is denied life-saving health services because of who they are.”

Next up: Arkansas Republicans have two more anti-transgender bills under consideration: one that would require public school teachers use only the names listed on students’ birth certificates, and another, HB1570, the “Save Adolescents From Experimentation” or SAFE Act. It would outlaw all “gender transition” related medical care for anyone under 18, and would bar the use of public funds for that kind of affirming healthcare, such as puberty blockers. The ACLU tweeted a video featuring Strangio, urging opposition to this bill.

Meanwhile, South Dakota Republicans will consider a revised ban on trans athletes on Monday. Texas Republicans held a hearing today on their own anti-trans athlete bill, which like the ones proposed in 29 other states this legislative session, would actually ban girls and women from school sports. Because trans girls are girls and trans women are women.