The House Committee on Education and the Workforce held hearings on federal legislation designed to keep transgender girls and women from competing in sport with cisgender women Wednesday.
H.R. 734, dubbed the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act,” would add an amendment to Title IX that would state, “sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
Within that definition, the bill also states, “It shall be a violation for a recipient of Federal financial assistance who operates, sponsors, or facilitates athletic programs or activities to permit a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls.”
The first federal hearings regarding a law directly affecting transgender rights quickly developed into a contentious exchange along party lines. Republican representatives affirmed their support while also continuing rhetorical assaults on transgender people some may view as transphobic.
“The Biden Administration is erasing women to appease the most radical fringe of their political base,” Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) implored. “Men are not women and men should not be competing against our daughters.”
Democratic representatives countered with words and attempts at amendments to move the bill toward issues such as equity in funding and resources.
“There are very real issues plaguing women’s and girl’s sports that this committee should focus on instead of villainizing one of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in our schools and colleges,” Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) pointed out. “We could be discussing how to eliminate sexual harassment and discrimination. We could turn our attention to the well-publicized disparities in facilities and equipments in men’s and women’s athletic programs.”
New York Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman was strident on what he saw as the underlying message of the bill. “We have an ugly history of discrimination in this country and now the trans community is the target,” he said. “All they want to do is live their lives. Why are Republicans so uncomfortable with this? Who are we as Americans to be so darn uncomfortable with a group of people who are different than who we are?”
All opposition attempts at amendments ended up defeated along party lines. The bill itself, reintroduced by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) last month and a failure in two previous attempts to reach the floor of House of Representatives, is expected to pass in the GOP-controlled House but most likely die in the Democratic-controlled United States Senate.
Similar measures are finding traction at the state level. Currently, 18 states have passed such legislation and are under consideration in 14 other states. Since 2020 over 400 pieces of legislation targeted at transgender people have been introduced, debated, voted down or enacted in 41 states.
In a statement last month, Steube stated the catalyst for the bill was Lia Thomas’ success at last year’s NCAA swimming and diving championships. The University of Pennsylvania swimmer, who is trans, won a national championship in the 500-yard freestyle event.
Steube contends that Thomas’ win “robbed” the second-place finisher, Emma Weyant of the University of Virginia and a Florida native, of the 500-freestyle title. Thomas competed last season, according to then-existing NCAA guidelines, and is recognized as the legitimate winner, despite what Steube says.