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Tennessee Bans Trans Athletes From College Sports

Gov. Bill Lee
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee

The new law signed Friday builds on existing anti-trans laws in the state.


Republican Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee signed legislation on Friday that will prevent trans women from competing on college athletic teams that match their gender identity.

The new law builds on existing laws that bar trans women and girls from participating on high school sports teams that align with their gender.

A summary of the bill states that institutions of higher education "must rely upon the sex listed on the student's original birth certificate issued at or near the time of birth," Axios reports. Also, if a violation of the law "deprives a student of an athletic opportunity or causes direct or indirect harm to the student, then the student will have a private cause of action for injunctive relief, damages, and other relief, plus costs and including attorney fees."

"This law sends a horrible message that trans and nonbinary youth can be excluded from the many benefits of participating in sports," Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project and Tennessee Equality Project Foundation, said in a statement. "More broadly, it also stains those who are complicit and creates habits of lawmaking that endanger everyone in Tennessee. Legislation crafted from animus and ignorance protects no one."

The Human Rights Campaign also condemned the bill.

"2022 is on track to surpass a record number of anti-transgender bills filed in state legislatures this year, in large part because of the efforts by Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee lawmakers who, law after law, year after year, continue their legislative assault on the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender people," Cathryn Oakley, HRC's state legislative director and senior counsel. "Other governors, including Republicans, have decided to lead with compassion, but not Governor Lee. The Human Rights Campaign condemns his actions, and those of the anti-equality legislators in the state house in the strongest terms."

Last month, Lee signed a bill that would withhold state funds from state public school districts that do not follow the anti-trans sports ban Lee signed in March 2021. That law requires student athletes in public middle schools and high schools to compete under the gender they were assigned at birth, as shown on their birth certificate or other official documents.

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