US: States seek curbs on trans girls in sports


(Reuters) – Grace Walker, 17, was captain of the girls’ tennis team at her Minnesota high school, until the coronavirus pandemic wiped out her season.

Now her state is one of 20 across the country, where lawmakers want to block transgender athletes like her from participating on high school and university sports teams, that conform with their gender identity.

The wave of legislation has become another flashpoint in the US culture war, with Republicans pushing back against the Biden administration’s efforts to expand transgender rights. Former President Donald Trump is among those in his party who say the laws are needed to keep the playing fields fair for women and girls.

The Republican governor of Mississippi on Thursday signed a law banning students designated as male at birth from women’s and girls’ sports, and South Dakota’s Republican governor has vowed to sign a similar measure passed on Monday in her state.

Opponents call the measures discriminatory, and say transgender athletes should be allowed every opportunity to freely compete.

Walker, who also is a member of the cheerleading squad for the boys’ basketball team, says she is a normal teenager, who wants to participate, without politics getting in the way.

“I think it’s fairly silly,” she said in a Zoom interview.

“This isn’t attacking what they think it is. It’s attacking kids.”

A recent Politico/Morning Consult poll found 53% of registered voters support banning transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports, versus a third who oppose such a ban.


The sports legislation is among 73 bills filed in US statehouses this year, that would restrict transgender rights, said Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign advocacy group.

Other bills seek to limit the medical treatment offered to transgender youth, or curb the ability to change gender markers on state identity documents.

“This is about our opponents trying to create a problem where there just isn’t one,” Oakley said.

“They are looking to scapegoat trans people and specifically trans kids in an effort to score political points.”

Proponents of the legislation said it was needed, after President Joe Biden, a Democrat, signed an executive order on his first day in office in January, to combat discrimination against people for their gender identity or sexual orientation.

“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” Biden’s order said.

Collegiate and Olympic governing boards have rules on hormone treatments for transgender athletes, but critics say they are insufficient.


Mississippi’s law is due to take effect on July 1.

Rose Saxe, deputy director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s LGBT project, said the flurry of measures nationwide violates the US Constitution’s equal protection clause, and the Title IX of the education code, which bans discrimination the basis of sex.

The first-of-its-kind ‘Fairness in Women’s Sports Act’ passed last year in Idaho, and was blocked by a federal judge as unconstitutional.

Saxe said the ACLU will consider suing more states, if students are excluded from sports as a result of new bans.

“We are watching carefully,” Saxe said.

-Daniel Trotta


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