Kansas and Alabama have advanced bills that would keep transgender athletes off the public school sports teams designated for their gender identity.
The Kansas Senate Wednesday approved Senate Bill 208, sending it on to the House of Representatives, while the Alabama House passed House Bill 891 Thursday, and it moves to the state's Senate. Both measures are aimed primarily at keeping trans girls and women from competing with cisgender females, due to the perception that trans females have an inherent and unfair advantage in sports.
That's much disputed by both activists and scientists, but there is a rash of such legislation pending in states around the nation, with about 40 bills total, even though most of their supporters can't name a single instance of trans inclusion causing a problem in their state. Mississippi is the only one where an anti-trans sports bill has been signed into law this year, and South Dakota's governor has said she will sign a similar measure. A trans-exclusionary law adopted in Idaho last year has been blocked by a federal judge while a court challenge to it proceeds.
Kansas senators passed their bill by a vote of 24-10, TV station KMBC reports. "It simply requires an equal and level playing field for women and girls, what we've had in place," said Republican Sen. Renee Erickson, who supports the legislation.
The bill is a top priority for Republican lawmakers and their supporters, such as the far-right Family Policy Alliance of Kansas. "Courts have consistently held that there are differences between men and women that matter in select instances," Brittany Jones, the group's advocacy director, told the station. "Athletics is one of those instances. Girls desire a fair playing field. That is all this bill provides. To every female athlete -- this is a declaration that there is a place for you to shoot for the stars in Kansas."
But Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Democrat, said that not only is the bill "hateful" and "rooted in bigotry," it reflects a sexist attitude. "I appreciate several of my male colleagues telling me how they want to protect the underdog, how men are superior. I actually find that rather misogynistic and rude," she said. "Excluding women who are trans hurts all women."
Those colleagues included Republican Sen. Virgil Peck, who said the bill is based on "old-fashioned chivalry." He asked, "Have we -- men -- given away our manpower to the snowflakes? Are we going to allow someone to carry around our manhood in their fanny pack or in their purse? Are there no longer any alpha males who will stand and defend our young ladies, our wives, our daughters, our granddaughters, our neighbors' wives, daughters, and granddaughters?" Another Republican, Sen. Mark Steffen, called males "a genetically and time-engineered superior machine."
Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has voiced opposition to the bill but stopped short of saying she would veto it. She said it could hurt Kansas's reputation and make it harder for the state to attract businesses. And Rep. Stephanie Byers, the state's first trans lawmaker, has called out the measurer's transphobia. Trans kids have gotten some affirmation, and now they're seeing that being stripped," she said.
In Alabama, the House approved the anti-trans sports bill by 74-19, with Republican support and Democratic opposition, reports AL.com, a site for several Alabama newspapers. "It is unfair for biological males to compete against females in high school sports," said its sponsor, Rep. Scott Stadthagen.
House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels pointed out that the Alabama High School Athletic Association already has a policy that athletes must be assigned according to the gender on their birth certificate.
"This bill actually does the opposite of its intent," Daniels said. "If it's challenged in court, which it will be, it will undo the policy created by the athletic association."
Stadthagen said the bill is needed because the association's policy could change. The association supports the measure, although its counterparts in several other states oppose trans-exclusionary legislation.
Civil rights groups condemned Alabama's action. "School-based sports programs encourage teamwork, discipline, self-esteem, and promote healthy lifestyles -- attributes all kids need to become successful adults and productive members of society," said a statement from Scott McCoy, interim deputy legal director, LGBTQ rights and special litigation, at the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, based in Alabama's capital city of Montgomery. "Transgender student athletes should be allowed equal opportunities to play any sport they choose as their authentic selves, just like any other student. ... Targeting transgender youth who wish to participate in sports is just one more cruel attempt to erase their existence."
"The Trevor Project's research demonstrates that transgender and nonbinary youth who have access to affirming spaces consistently have a lower risk for suicide," added Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project, which supports LGBTQ+ youth. "That's why lawmakers should be fostering inclusion in the classroom and on the sports field, not pushing trans youth to the sidelines. The Trevor Project urges members of the Alabama Senate to reject this unfair bill and take time out of their days to meet with the trans young people in Alabama who would be harmed by this cruel policy."