Arizona lawmakers have moved a bill out of committee that bars transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.
It now heads to the floor of the House of Representatives for consideration in the coming weeks.
The measure, which applies to K-12 schools, community colleges, and state universities, would allow only those assigned female at birth to compete on female athletic teams.
If a person’s gender identity were called into question, that athlete would be required to obtain a doctor’s note proving they are female before being allowed to compete.
The bill would also allow cisgender female students who believe they’ve missed out on athletic opportunities because of transgender inclusion on a school team to file lawsuits seeking redress, reports Fox 10 Phoenix.
The bill was approved on a party-line vote, with Republicans on the House health and Human Services Committee voting to move the measure along to the House floor.
It does not contain any restrictions preventing transgender males from competing in men’s sports.
Supporters of the bill argue that transgender females have an unfair biological advantage over cisgender girls, which denies cisgender girls opportunities to win, advance to higher-level competitions, such as regional or national championships, and potentially denies them opportunities to earn college scholarships.
“Science is what it is,” Rep. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), the bill’s sponsor said. “The difference between males and females is obvious.”
Similar arguments were utilized in a lawsuit filed last week by three Connecticut athletes and their parents, who allege that the girls have been denied opportunities by being forced to compete against two transgender athletes from rival schools.
However, in an interesting twist, one of the plaintiffs, Chelsea Mitchell, won the Connecticut state championship titles in the long jump, 300-meter run and 55-meter dash, the latter two events in which she defeated transgender athlete — and former state champion — Terry Miller.
But opponents of the bill, including Arizona Democrats, argue that the measure will effectively ban transgender females from participating in sports altogether, as they may not want to compete against cisgender males, and could be putting themselves at risk of abuse or harassment by teammates if they were to compete on male sports teams.
Rep. Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) particularly took issue with the provision that requires females whose gender identity is called into question to undergo a medical exam and obtain a doctor’s note before they can compete.
She and her fellow Democrats voiced concerns that the bill could open the door for any losing athlete or team to contest game outcomes or preemptively hamstring or waylay their opponents by lodging a complaint alleging someone is transgender.
“I used to be a tomboy,” Hernandez said, according to Capitol Media Services. “And there were many girls on that team who easily, or someone could suspect or say, ‘They look this way’ or ‘They don’t look that way.'”
Chase Strangio, a lawyer for the ACLU, has previously criticized attempts to bar transgender women from competing.
“The purpose of high school athletics is to support inclusion, build social connection and teamwork, and help all students thrive and grow,” Strangio said in a statement issued in response to the Connecticut lawsuit. “Efforts to undermine Title IX by claiming it doesn’t apply to a subset of girls will ultimately hurt all students and compromise the work of ending the long legacy of sex discrimination in sports.”
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