South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed an anti-trans sports bill into law on Monday. The law, like others around the country, bars trans student athletes from playing on the sports teams that best match their gender identity.
Called the Save Women’s Sports Act, the legislation, House Bill 4608, requires student athletes from elementary school to college to play on the team that corresponds to the gender they were assigned at birth.
South Carolina now joins a slew of states that have passed similar legislation.
“We have to do everything we can to protect the young men and women in our state who choose to pursue athletic competition, and that’s why I proudly signed this bill into law yesterday,” McMaster wrote in a tweet Tuesday.
The Republican governor added, “It’s common sense, boys should play [boys'] sports and girls should play [girls'] sports.”
Local LGBTQ+ advocates called out the governor for signing the bill. It’s a bill that advocates have been pushing back against for two years, says Ivy Hill, executive director of the South Carolina-based organization Gender Benders and community health program director at the Campaign for Southern Equality.
“It is clear to me that this is unconstitutional, and we're not going to stop fighting just because the governor signed it,” Hill says. They added that there are already attorneys ready to sue over the law.
Hill tells The Advocate they estimate the bill has been delayed more than 10 times. However, this time around, they say, lawmakers pushed the legislation through.
“It's a really terrible message that lawmakers have been sending to our youth and now the governor is also standing behind it,” Hill says. “We're going to continue to do everything that we can to protect trans youth.”
While Hill says the passing and signing of the bill has been “disheartening,” they explain that there has still been strong opposition to the bill.
“If there's anything that really gives me hope about the situation, it is just the incredible way that the community has come together and showed up at the Statehouse to testify, to send letters to legislators, to engage in creative resistance, all these things over and over and over again,” they tell The Advocate. “I also feel like we are doing a lot to build political power in the LGBT community in South Carolina and that's not going to stop.”
To trans youth in South Carolina and across the country, Hill says, “You should not have to be advocating for your humanity and dignity like this. It is shameful and disgusting that lawmakers continue to target you and attack you. But there's also a huge group of folks who love you and support you and have your back.”
National LGBTQ+ rights groups also condemned the legislation.
The Human Rights Campaign said in a statement that McMaster and the state’s legislature “have failed the people of South Carolina.”
“HB 4608 is a shameful bill and a stain on Governor McMaster’s record. Transgender kids are playing school sports because it’s what kids often do to make friends, get exercise, and learn what it takes to be part of a team,” said Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s state legislative director and senior counsel. “Transgender people have participated uneventfully in school athletics for decades, and this issue is simply manufactured to further distract and divide us. This bill is not about fairness for women, it’s about attacking a marginalized group that is already bearing the weight of discrimination.”
Oakley added, “History will remember Governor McMaster’s disregard for compassion, humanity, and basic human rights.”
Sam Ames, the Trevor Project’s director for advocacy and government affairs, said the organization gets numerous calls to its crisis counselors every day from young trans and nonbinary people.
“Like every one of the sports bans we’ve seen passed across the country over the last three years, this is a solution in search of a problem, and it will only work to increase the isolation and stigmatization of an already-marginalized group of students,” Ames said in a press release. “It’s heartbreaking to know that trans youth, who already report the highest rates of anxiety and depression symptoms, now have one more thing to worry about.”
They added, “We implore lawmakers to stop these unfair and unnecessary policies targeting a small group of marginalized youth and focus their energy on the well-being of all youth.”