A national group coming to the aid of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), whose approval ratings are underwater as he faces re-election, has launched a digital ad claiming his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Andy Beshear, supports “allowing biological males to compete on women’s sports teams.”
The $250,000 ad, sponsored by the Campaign for American Principles, shows a group of young women running a race and then being overtaken by a young man. In the background, articles questioning the presence of transgender athletes in women’s sports flash by.
“All female athletes want is a fair shot in competition — at a scholarship, at a title, at victory,” a female narrator says. “What if that shot was taken away by a competitor that claims they’re a girl but was born a boy? Andy Beshear supports legislation that would destroy girls’ sports. He calls it ‘equality.’ Maybe. But is it fair?”
The Campaign for American Principles says its ad is based on a post on his Facebook page where Beshear indicated his support for “equality” generally, and conflates his support for LGBTQ rights with support for the Equality Act.
The ad echoes arguments made by congressional Republicans when the nondiscrimination bill was being debated in the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to Republicans, if the federal government prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation (which is unrelated to whether one identifies as transgender) or gender identity, there will be a flood of biological males pretending to be women in order to earn a competitive advantage in sports competitions.
Even though there’s no example of a cisgender boy pretending to be a girl to join a women’s sports teams, conservatives point to Connecticut, where two transgender females — Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood — finished first and second in the 55-meter dash at the indoor state track and field championships last winter.
The Department of Education has since launched an investigation into the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s policy, in response to a complaint filed by three cisgender female athletes who finished behind Miller and Yearwood.
But what happened in Connecticut is not necessarily prologue to what may happen in Kentucky. For starters, in Connecticut, a student may compete in sports based on the gender with which they identify.
Under the policy adopted by the Kentucky High School Athletics Association, a transgender student could only compete for a team matching their gender identity if they had legally changed their gender.
Under Kentucky law, a transgender individual may only change their birth certificate if they obtain a court order, go through gender confirmation surgery, and have a licensed medical provider attest to that fact that the person has transitioned, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Given those obstacles, the likelihood of a transgender student in Kentucky: A) being out; B) having affirming parents that would allow them to express their identity; C) undergoing gender confirmation surgery, which would require a lengthy recovery period; and D) obtaining all the proper documentation to confirm their transition would be nearly impossible, and could take longer than a student’s entire high school career to take effect.
Nonetheless, the argument is a good propaganda technique in a commonwealth where there are no statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
“This is a shameful and false attack from a shady group that will lead to bullying of our kids. Andy opposes discrimination,” Sam Newton, a spokesman for Beshear’s gubernatorial campaign, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Matt Bevin is an unhinged failure who is hurting our students by seeking to tear down public education. He even blamed teachers, without evidence, for the sexual abuse of children.”
“This is an obvious, really despicable down and dirty scare tactic,” Chris Hartman, the executive director of the LGBTQ organization Kentucky Fairness, added.
Bevin’s campaign has thus far declined to comment on the ad.
While this particular ad is from an outside group, Bevin has shown no reticence in using LGBTQ rights as a wedge issue, having cast himself as the defender of religious liberty by tying himself to Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis when he first ran in 2015.
His administration previously sued the federal government over guidance that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender identity, and Bevin recently signed onto an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to allow employers to discriminate against LGBTQ employees in two cases pending before the high court.