US: Mississippi Senate Passes Anti-Trans Sports Ban Bill

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The Mississippi Senate has passed an anti-transgender bill, SB 2536, aimed at banning transgender women and girls from participating in sports. This discriminatory legislation would put Mississippi in direct violation of NCAA policy, and could also threaten Mississippi’s federal education funding. The bill now heads to the Mississippi House of Representatives for consideration.

“By passing SB 2536, the Mississippi Senate is listening to national extremist organizations that are using fear and hate as a political wedge. All this bill does is put transgender youth at risk of bullying, exclusion, and increased danger while discrimination and violence against transgender people is at a record high in this country. If legislators would simply listen to medical experts and transgender athletes, they might know that transitioning for the sake of a competitive advantage is simply unrealistic. So is the idea that transgender athletes even gain a supposed advantage in the first place. Rather than use this all-important legislative session to bully transgender youth, the Mississippi legislature would be wise to focus their efforts on economic relief and addressing the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 6,000 Misssissippians.”

Rob Hill, Human Rights Campaign, Mississippi State Director

The only state to pass this type of legislation so far has been Idaho, which swiftly had the law suspended by a district court, who found the plaintiff’s argument, that the law was specious and discriminatory, to be likely to prevail.

Rather than take a lesson from Idaho, Mississippi has chosen to emulate it, putting forward one of the most extreme versions of this anti-transgender legislation proposed this year. Mississippi is yet again inviting litigation and reputational harm, by attacking transgender people – and it is doing so based entirely on pretext. There is no evidence that there has been any problem in Mississippi that would prompt this kind of legislation – the only reason to legislate now is to codify fear and misunderstanding of transgender people, into the law.

Codifying anti-transgender animus into the law not only will prompt litigation, but also can cause the state significant reputational and economic harm. The NCAA came out against the Idaho bill this legislation is modelled on.

Analyses conducted in the aftermath of previous divisive anti-transgender bills across the country, like the bathroom bills introduced in Texas and North Carolina, show that there would be devastating economic fallout. The Associated Press projected that the North Carolina bathroom bill could have cost the state $3.76 billion over 10 years. During a fight over an anti-transgender bathroom bill in 2017, the Texas Association of Business estimated $8.5 billion in economic losses, risking 185,000 jobs in the process, due to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and professional sporting event cancellations, a ban on taxpayer funded travel to those states, cancellation of movie productions, and businesses moving projects out of state.

Mississippi’s rush to take on these risks, amid a pandemic, when there is no problem that even needs addressing, speaks volumes about Mississippi’s priorities and prejudices.

Wyatt Ronan

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