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Alabama has become the latest state, and the fourth overall, to bar transgender athletes from competing in sports based on their gender identity.
This year, more than 60 different bills targeting transgender athletes have been introduced in close to 30 state legislatures. Under Alabama’s bill, signed by Gov. Kay Ivey (R), K-12 public schools are prohibited from participating in, sponsoring, or providing coaching staff for events in which athletes are allowed to compete based on their gender identity.
As in other states, proponents have insisted the bill is essential to protecting the integrity of sports, claiming the participation of transgender female athletes threatens the ability of cisgender females to compete for various awards and honors. But opponents say it’s simple a political messaging bill that targets the transgender community in order to appease social conservatives.
“By signing this legislation, Gov. Ivey is forcefully excluding transgender children. Let’s be clear here: transgender children are children. They deserve the same opportunity to learn valuable skills of teamwork, sportsmanship, and healthy competition with their peers,” Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “Simply put, Alabamans deserve better than lawmakers who legislate against the health and safety of all kids for cheap political gain.”
“This bill is a shameful bill that is built on a web of lies and misinformation,” Carmarion Harvey-Anderson, the state director of HRC’s Alabama arm, said in a statement. “Transgender youth have been playing sports consistent with their gender identity for years without incident on the collegiate and professional level. They just want access to the same childhood experiences as their peers.
“Ultimately, HB 391 will not just hurt transgender kids. It will hurt all Alabamans because the consequences of this law — economic harm, expensive taxpayer-funded legal battles, and a tarnished reputation — will ripple across the state,” Harvey-Anderson said.
Some opponents of the bill have expressed concern that measures viewed as anti-LGBTQ will prompt retaliation from the business community, which has largely come out against similar measures in other states, or the NCAA, which could threaten to deny the opportunity for Alabama to host various tournaments or sporting events.
The NCAA recently threatened to do just that, reminding potential host cities that part of the criteria for being chosen relies on the ability to “commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination” for athletes and fans alike.
Sam Brinton, the vice president of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, the top organization dedicated to combating suicide among LGBTQ youth, called it “astonishing” that politicians in several states have been able to successfully move forward with legislation to deal with a “fabricated” problem targeting transgender youth.
“We should be asking why so many trans youth already don’t feel safe participating in school sports — not making it impossible to do so,” Brinton said in a statement.
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