States advance the fight for women’s sports
Proposed laws make headway across the country
Since President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 20 promoting transgender participation in single-sex school sports, lawmakers in 16 states have taken action to protect female athletes. Twenty-three states in all are considering bills to keep men who identify as women from gaining an unfair and possibly dangerous advantage in sports; in four states, the measure has already passed in at least one chamber of the legislature.
The Mississippi Senate on Feb. 11 overwhelmingly approved a measure that would prohibit transgender athletes from competing in girls and women’s sports in state schools and universities. The Houses of Representatives in Montana, North Dakota, and Utah have passed similar legislation in recent weeks.
Supporters of the bills want to protect women from having to settle as runners-up in their own competitions and from the safety risks of playing with male athletes, whose physical advantages typically persist even after they have undergone cross-sex therapies.
Without legal protections, women might have to compete against men for athletic scholarships. They also could have to undress in front of male teammates who share their locker rooms, raising concerns about privacy and sexual harassment.
In Mississippi, Republican state Sen. Angela Hill, who sponsored the legislation, said numerous coaches in the state contacted her expressing concern and support. In a Feb. 4 Twitter post, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, mentioned his three daughters and his family’s passion for girls’ sports. He called Biden’s executive order “bad policy” and “wrong for America.”
“It will limit opportunity for so many competitors like my daughters,” he said.
Mississippi’s bill will head to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in the coming weeks.
The LGBT activist group Human Rights Campaign warned Mississippi lawmakers that the state could lose federal funding and face costly legal battles and pushback from the NCAA. The group cited an ongoing legal fight in Idaho, which passed a law restricting transgender athletic participation in 2020. A federal judge in August issued a preliminary injunction to block the enforcement of the law pending a trial.
Beth Stelzer of Save Women’s Sports told NBC News the issue should not be about religion or politics. “It is common sense,” she said. “We have women from the left, right, and center coming together to preserve female sports across the world.”