Sports are a universal experience. During the COVID-19 pandemic, sports became even more important as a means to work out frustrations and stay connected with peers and friends. Recently, a highly debated sports-world topic is transgender individuals and their participation on sports teams. So far in 2021, more than 30 states have introduced bills that would target access to healthcare and restrict access to sports for transgender youth.
According to an article in the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, there currently is no research suggesting that transgender individuals have any athletic advantage during any stage of their transition. However, many states have proposed bans on transgender athletes participating in sports. Many of these bans focus on ensuring that girl’s and women’s sports teams are only for biological girls and women. Here is a recap of some of the bills being introduced around the U.S.
In Alabama, lawmakers have proposed HB391, which would not allow school-aged athletes to compete against opposite genders. This house bill was passed on April 15 and is expected to become law shortly.
Arkansas has introduced two bills SB354 and SJR16, that promote fairness in women’s sports by restricting sports teams designated by biological sex only. Senate Bill 354 creates The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act and has been passed and made into law. Senate Joint Resolution 16 aims to amend the Arkansas Constitution by permitting public school sports teams to be divided by biological sex. This amendment was referred to the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs committee.
Like Alabama and Arkansas’s bills, Arizona has introduced SB1637, which would restrict sports teams by biological sex. This bill was introduced, but no further action is scheduled.
Connecticut lawmakers have proposed HB05795, prohibiting biological males from competing on publicly funded female-only sports teams. This ban would cover sports teams from elementary schools to college-level teams. The Connecticut Senate has introduced SB00324 – a bill that would protect athletic organizations or private youth organizations should they introduce a rule that those athletes can only play on teams that align with their gender on their birth certificate. This bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Judiciary.
Lawmakers in Florida introduced HB1475 – a bill that would only allow biological females to compete on girl’s or women’s sports teams. Introduced in February, this bill was referred to several House committees where votes were successful in passing this bill. To be made into law, the companion Senate bill would need to pass before landing on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk for his signature. Democrats and Republicans have been locked in a battle over this bill, with Democrats adding amendments that would weaken the bill’s effects.
Georgia legislators introduced HB276 – a bill that would only allow biological females to compete on women’s sports teams. This bill would affect public and private schools and colleges within the University System of Georgia. This bill was referred to the House Education Academic Support Subcommittee and has been read twice. Georgia’s Senate introduced SB266 – a bill to enact the Save Girls Sports Act. This act would only allow biological females to compete on women’s sports teams. This bill was referred to the Senate Education and Youth Committee, where it was favorably reported. The Senate read this bill for the second time.
Lawmakers in Iowa have introduced HF184 – a bill that would restrict school sports teams based on biological sex. This bill was introduced in January and has been referred to the Education Committee.
Kansas has two similar bills – SB208 and SB55, that focus on creating fairness in women’s sports by only allowing those who are biologically female to participate. Senate Bill 208 was introduced in February and moved to the Committee on Education. Senate Bill 55 was introduced in January and passed on April 16. Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed SB55 on April 22 stating “it sends a devasting message to transgender kids.”
The Senate in Kentucky has introduced SB106 – a bill that would establish an act that would restrict student athletes from participating in sports teams that match their biological sex. The Save Women’s Sports Act bill was referred to the Education Committee in April. Nearly identical to SB106, HB471 would also enact the Save Women’s Sports Act. In February, this house bill was introduced and referred to the Committee on Committees.
In April, the House in Louisiana introduced HB542 – a bill that would ensure equal access to sports for biological females by establishing the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. This bill was introduced and referred to the Committee on Education.
In Michigan, the Senate introduced SB0218 – a bill requiring only biological females to play on girls’ or women’s sports teams. This bill would also require that only biological males play on boy’s or men’s sports teams. Senate lawmakers referred to the Committee on Education and Career Readiness in March.
Minnesota lawmakers have introduced two bills regarding sports and gender. SF96 would only permit biological females on girl’s or women’s sports teams in elementary or high school. This bill was introduced in January and promptly referred to the Senate Committee on Education, Finance and Policy. HF1657 would prohibit male students from joining female sports teams. As well, male students wouldn’t be allowed in female changing rooms. If a biological male were to use a female-only changing room, they would be guilty of a misdemeanor. This bill was introduced in March and was referred to the Education Policy Committee.
Introduced in January, SB2536 is a Mississippi bill requiring any public school and publicly-funded college to restrict their athletic teams according to biological sex. Senate Bill 2536 was approved by Gov. Tate Reeves. It will take legal effect on July 1, 2021.
Missouri lawmakers have introduced four different bills related to transgender students and sports. HJR53 is a bill that would designate public sports teams by biological sex. This bill has been voted on and is expected to cross to the Senate shortly. HB1184 is a bill that would prohibit state funding of any elementary, high school or college that allows biological males to participate on girl’s or women’s sports teams. This bill has been read for the second time.
The third bill Missouri legislators introduced was HB1077 – a bill that establishes guidelines for fair competition within publicly funded high schools by establishing that rules around what biological sex may compete on which team. This bill was read for a second time and was referred to the Emerging Issues House Committee.
The final bill Missouri’s House of Representatives introduced was HB1045. This bill is nearly identical in purpose to HJR53 and would establish guidelines for public schools’ sports teams, mainly that sports teams must be divided by biological sex. Read for a second time, and this bill was referred to the Emerging Issues House Committee.
Legislators in Montana have introduced one bill that requires public school sports teams to be designated by biological sex at birth. HB112 was introduced in January and has been sent from the House to the Senate for review. The third reading in the House and the Senate has occurred, ensuring that a final vote is coming soon.
New Jersey’s SB3540 and New Mexico’s HB304 both focus on ensuring fairness in women’s sports. Both bills require that sports teams be designated by biological sex. New Jersey’s bill was introduced in the Senate and promptly referred to the Senate Education Committee. New Mexico’s bill was referred to the Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, where the bill failed. Based on the analysis provided by the committee, this bill failed because New Mexico felt that the majority of the policies were unfairly discriminating against transgender women. As well, there was concern that the University of New Mexico may find itself in conflict with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), putting the university at risk of being sanctioned and potentially losing out hosting NCAA events and the accompanying financial supports.
New Hampshire lawmakers introduced HB198, a bill that would ensure high school and college sports teams be limited to biological females for girl’s and women’s sports and not be open to students who were biologically male at birth. This bill was introduced and referred to the Education House Committee.
Legislators in North Carolina introduced H358 – a bill that would enact the Save Women’s Sports Act. This bill would ensure that women are not forced to compete against men when playing on women’s sports teams. This House bill passed the first reading and was referred to the Judiciary Committee.
In North Dakota, HB1298 was introduced in January and restricted sports teams exclusively for biological males or females. This bill would also include a legislative management study on student sports teams that are designated by biological sex. On April 21, Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed this bill. While the House and Senate voted to override the veto, the Senate failed to override the governor’s veto.
Similar to other states across the U.S., Oklahoma lawmakers introduced SB331– a bill that would establish the Save Women’s Sports Act. This bill would require sports teams to be designated based on biological sex. Senate Bill 331’s second reading was referred to the Education Committee in February.
Ohio lawmakers have introduced HB61. This bill would enact Save Women’s Sports Act, which would require schools, state and private colleges to designate sports teams based on biological sex. House Bill 61 was introduced in February and referred to the Committee: Primary and Secondary Education.
Pennsylvania legislators introduced HB972 – a bill that would create an act where public schools and public colleges would require sports to be designated male, female or coed. This bill goes further than other states’ bills by protecting schools and colleges for maintaining separate athletic teams or sports for female students. This bill was introduced in April and promptly referred to the Education Committee.
South Carolina lawmakers have introduced multiple bills. The nearly identical bills would enact the Save Women’s Sports Act. This act would ensure that public and private schools at the middle and high school level sports teams are designated by biological sex and restrict girls’ or women’s teams to biological females. H3477 was introduced in January and referred to the House Special Laws Subcommittee. H4153, was introduced in April and referred to the House Special Laws Subcommittee. The South Carolina Senate introduced S0531 in February and it has been referred to the Committee on Education.
South Dakota lawmakers introduced HB 1217 – a bill that would require publicly funded schools to designate sports teams by biological sex. This bill would require a girl’s or women’s team to be made up of those who are biologically female. Bowing to pressure from various sources, including the NCAA, Gov. Kristi Noem vetoed the bill on March 29. While lawmakers in South Dakota tried to override the governor’s veto, the vote failed to pass, killing the bill.
Lawmakers in Tennessee have passed SB0228 – a bill that states a student’s gender at birth decides their sports team for participation. Students born female must compete on the girl’s or women’s teams. The companion bill is HB0003, both of which were passed and enacted in April.
During this legislative calendar, Texas lawmakers introduced six bills that all designate sports teams by biological sex – HB1458, HB3455, HB4042, HB4043, SB29, and SB373. House Bill 1458 was introduced in January and was referred to State Affairs. House Bill 3455 was introduced in March and referred to the Public Education Committee. House Bill 4043 was introduced in March and was referred to the House Public Education Committee. Senate Bill 29 was read for the third time and referred to the Senate Public Education Committee. According to the Public Education Committee Chair Rep. Harold Dutton, House Bill 4042 does not have the votes to pass the committee, leaving five of the six bills alive.
In the Utah House of Representatives, HB0302 was introduced in February. This bill would restrict sports teams to be designated by biological sex. Students who are biologically male are not permitted to participate in sports teams for girls or women. This bill stalled in the Senate committee and won’t be enacted.
Washington state lawmakers have introduced HB1556 – a bill that would restrict sports teams designated by biological sex. This bill was introduced in March, read once, and referred to the Education Committee.
West Virginia legislators have introduced six bills – HB2141, HB2676, HB2734, HB2917, HB3293 and SB341. All six bills focus on restricting sports teams to those who are biologically female or male. Five bills have yet to receive a vote. House Bill 3293 passed votes in the House and the Senate before arriving on Gov. Jim Justice’s desk for his signature.
States that have introduced these controversial bills may find themselves missing out on sporting events, like NCAA events. The NCAA has issued a statement firmly supporting inclusivity and fair play for all student-athletes at all levels of play.
Some believe that women’s sports are under attack by transgender youth leading to this wave of bills restricting transgender athletes. At this time, states have begun to enact several of these bills, while other governors have vetoed bills. As the legislative calendar comes to an end shortly, many of these bills may end up being passed or fail to be enacted. The debate about how transgender athletes are allowed to participate is sure to continue and some of the enacted laws may even begin to be challenged in courts.