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A bill in Tennessee that would prohibit transgender athletes from competing is on its way to the governor.

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A bill in Tennessee that would prohibit transgender athletes from competing is on its way to the governor.
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A bill in Tennessee that would prohibit transgender athletes from competing is on its way to the governor.

A bill in Tennessee that would prohibit transgender athletes from competing is on its way to the governor.

 

The Republican-controlled Tennessee Statehouse gave final legislative approval Monday to a bill prohibiting transgender athletes from competing in girls’ sports, a move that many opponents say would lead to expensive legal challenges and hurt transgender youth.

After little discussion, House members voted 71-16 in favor of the resolution. The bill is now on its way to Republican Governor Bill Lee’s desk. Lee has not indicated whether he will sign the bill, but he has stated that transgender athletes will “destroy women’s sports” and that transgender athletes will “restore a glass ceiling over women that hasn’t existed in a long time.”

This year, Republicans in at least 20 state legislatures have pushed for similar bans. Arkansas lawmakers gave Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, a similar ban earlier Monday. The governor of Mississippi signed a ban into law earlier this month. Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota has expressed support for such measures, but has advocated for their application to college sports.

In order to compete in public school sports in middle and high schools, student athletes will have to show that their sex matches that stated on the student’s “original” birth certificate, according to Tennessee’s bill. If the parents cannot provide a birth certificate, they must provide some kind of proof “indicating the student’s sex at the time of birth.”

“Words have meaning. They are highly important. When challenged by Democrats, Republican Rep. Scott Cepicky said, “This bill that I’m sponsoring protects the competitive balance, the protection, and the opportunities for scholarships and advancement for our female athletes.”

None of the Tennessee measure’s proponents could name a single case of transgender girls or boys causing problems. Just a few instances were identified in a study by The Associated Press among the hundreds of thousands of American teenagers who participate in high school sports.

Supporters of the bill claim that since transgender girls were born male, they are biologically heavier, quicker, and bigger than their female counterparts, giving them an unfair advantage in sports.

Opponents argue that such plans breach Title IX of the federal education statute, which prohibits sex discrimination, as well as Supreme Court and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decisions. Others point to an executive order signed by Democratic Vice President Joe Biden prohibiting discrimination in school sports and elsewhere based on gender identity.

Only Idaho has so far succeeded in enacting such legislation. However, it was never enforced because it was blocked by a federal judge in the middle of a case.

“Plain and simple, this is about prejudice. “This is not about fairness,” said Nashville Democrat Rep. John Ray Clemmons.

After the bill passed the House, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee quickly denounced it as “shameful,” claiming that transgender girls pose no threat to women’s sports.

“We advise Gov. Lee to change course and veto this bill, or we will take him to court if any transgender student is disqualified as a result of this new law,” said Executive Director Hedy Weinberg.

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