Metro Weekly

U.S. Senate defeats amendment to ban trans athletes from women’s sports

Amendment was one of several seeking to derail or significantly alter Democrats' $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill

senate, trans, athletes
U.S. Senators Tommy Tuberville (left) and Patty Murray debate the Tuberville Amendment seeking to bar trans females from women’s sports. – Photos: C-SPAN.

The U.S. Senate narrowly defeated an amendment to a COVID-19 relief bill, largely along party lines, that would have prohibited states, school districts, and universities from receiving federal education. funds if they allow transgender females or nonbinary athletes who were assigned male at birth to participate in athletics designated specifically for women and girls.

The Tuberville Amendment, offered by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), received 49 votes in favor, with 48 Republicans and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.V.) supporting the restriction, which ultimately would have forced states and school districts to ban transgender athletes from competing in order to receive federal funding, or, if they resisted, would likely have prompted districts to make severe cuts to special programming or extracurricular activities.

Fifty senators, including the bulk of the Democratic caucus, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), voted against the amendment. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) was not present.

In offering his amendment, Tuberville, best known for his stint as the former football coach at Auburn University, spoke of his experience coaching boys’ and girls’ sports over the years, claiming that transgender participation in sports disadvantages cisgender female athletes and undermines the intent of Title IX, which is supposed to guarantee equal educational and athletic opportunities for women and girls.

“This amendment safeguards fairness for equality for women,” Tuberville declared. “This amendment will ensure that education funding in the bill is properly directed to schools that are focused on COVID response and recovery rather than pushing a liberal agenda.”

No senators noted the irony in Tuberville’s claims of a liberal agenda being forced on schools, when in fact, Tuberville, by offering the amendment, was the one seeking to change existing school policies. Nor did any senator note that his proposal would have further delayed school reopenings by withholding money, in an attempt to impose a conservative agenda on many school districts where voters and parents of children enrolled in public schools routinely elect Democrats and pro-LGBTQ politicians. 

However, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) spoke against the amendment, urging its defeat.

“This amendment will undermine the goals of this bill: to provide assistance to all educators, all students, and families who have struggled through this pandemic. It is simply an attempt to discriminate against transgender students,” she said. “All students, including transgender students, benefit from participating in sports: to challenge themselves, to improve fitness, to be part of a team. Allowing transgender students to participate in athletic activities consistent with their gender identity in no way disadvantages their fellow students.

“For the love of God, can’t we just have a little bit of heart and compassion in this world for someone who doesn’t look or live exactly like you?” Murray continued. “Instead of focusing on discriminatory policies, we should be examining the real issues with gender parity in sports when it comes to funding and resources and pay equity. I oppose this amendment because it discriminates against transgender students. It is a harmful attempt to undermine our work to help students and families.”

See also: Donald Trump says women’s sports will “die” if transgender athletes are allowed to compete

In the end, the Senate rejected many of the more than two dozen amendments to the bill, which passed on party lines, 50-49. The final legislation includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $300-per-week jobless benefits through the summer, $350 billion in state aid, $34 billion in Affordable Care Act subsidies, and $14 billion to improve vaccine distribution efforts.

Noting that the Tuberville Amendment would have undermined existing NCAA rules and longstanding state laws or policies permitting transgender participation in athletics, the Human Rights Campaign denounced the amendment and celebrated its defeat.

“Yesterday, the Human Rights Campaign launched #LetKidsPlay to mobilize our allies, including thousands of parents of transgender children, elected officials and organizations, eventually getting the hashtag to number 19 on Twitter’s trending and raising awareness about the anti-equality amendments in this ‘Vote-a-rama,'” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Today, we are proud to see that U.S. senators stayed focused on providing critical relief to American families and voted down a discriminatory amendment that would have ultimately deprived federal funding for states across the country. These amendments solely sought to further [a] manufactured ‘culture war,’ driven by misinformation and fear-mongering. 

“We have said it before and we will say it again —  transgender people have been participating in sports consistent with their gender identity for decades,” David added. “The sad truth is that conservative Republicans are using it now to drum up a new culture war, using vulnerable children as political pawns. We thank the Senators who voted down this poison pill and put American families and small businesses ahead of political positioning.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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