Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has signed a bill into law barring transgender students from competing in public school sports under their gender identity.
Ivey, a Republican, signed House Bill 391 Friday, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Similar bills have been signed into law this year in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, and the governor of West Virginia is expected to sign one as well. The governor of South Dakota has issued executive orders to this effect, and Idaho enacted such a law last year and is facing a court challenge to it.
“A public K-12 school may not allow a biological female to participate on a male team if there is a female team in a sport,” the Alabama legislation reads. “A public K-12 school may never allow a biological male to participate on a female team.” It does allow for coed teams.
The bill, like similar ones introduced around the country, is based on the disputed notion that transgender girls — “biological males,” in the bill’s parlance — have an inherent and unfair advantage over their cisgender counterparts. However, backers of such legislation have seldom been able to cite an instance of a trans student’s participation in sports causing a problem in their state.
LGBTQ+ activists say trans-exclusionary laws further oppress an already marginalized population, and states that enact them may face economic repercussions, with businesses being reluctant to locate or expand operations in states that discriminate and the National Collegiate Athletic Association warning that it may not hold championships in these locations.
“HB 391 is nothing more than a politically motivated bill designed to discriminate against an already vulnerable population,” said a statement from HRC President Alphonso David. “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. 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. 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,” added HRC Alabama State Director Carmarion D. Harvey-Anderson. “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.”
“It is astonishing that politicians have fabricated this problem at the expense of trans 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,” said Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project.
“Let’s not pretend these legislators care one bit about supporting girls’ sports, or opportunities for girls and women more generally,” added Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Sasha Buchert. “That would involve parity of resources, including salaries and equipment, and ending gender stereotyping and discrimination. This bill’s supporters aren’t suggesting any of that. Their claim instead that this ban will ‘protect’ girls’ sports would be laughable were it not so deeply harmful and manifestly hypocritical. These attacks on trans youth must stop before more young people suffer needlessly because some powerful adults despise them and others don’t care enough to educate themselves.”
Montana may soon enact such a law as well. The state’s Senate and House this week both approved an amended version of a bill barring trans student athletes from competing under their gender identity, both in public schools and in state colleges and universities. The amendment provides for the law “to become void if the federal government withholds education funding from the state over gender discrimination and an appeal by the state fails,” the Associated Press reports. Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte has not indicated whether he will sign the bill, but he has shown hostility to LGBTQ+ people.
The HRC’s David denounced this bill as well. “Montana legislators have sadly led the national effort to advance these hateful bills that harm transgender children, who deserve better than this targeted discrimination,” he said, adding that Gianforte should “take heed of the consequences” of such a measure.
This week, Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas, a Democrat, and Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, a Republican, both vetoed trans-exclusionary sports bills. Similar measures have failed to pass in some other states, including Florida and Utah.