A new N.C. House bill seeks to ban transgender women from competing on women’s athletic teams at public schools in North Carolina.
LGBTQ advocates are calling the bill part of a wave of anti-transgender legislation pushed by conservative groups and lawmakers across the country.
House Bill 358 (the “Save Women’s Sports Act”), filed Monday, would compel all public schools and universities to have sports teams designated male, female or co-ed. Under the bill “sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
The bill would also prohibit any “governmental entity, licensing or accrediting organization, or athletic association or organization” from opening an investigation or taking adverse action against a school for maintaining separate teams.
The bill claims that transgender women have inherent advantages in sports and says it aims to ensure “women are not forced to compete against men playing on women’s sports teams.” The bill lays out causes of action and remedies for women who believe they have been deprived of opportunities by anyone violating the act and institutions that believe they are subjected to “retaliation or adverse action” as a result of reporting violations.
The bill would also cover charter and private schools if they are part of a state-level association including the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
“In North Carolina, girls deserve to again compete on a level playing field,” said Rep. Mark Brody (R-Union), one of the bill’s primary sponsors, in a statement Tuesday. “Instances of males competing in women’s sports exemplify the immediate need to act before fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities are destroyed. The Save Women’s Sports Act is the solution which ensures that all female athletes will be assured a level playing field to compete and win.”
Rebby Kern, education policy director for LGBTQ advocacy group Equality NC, denounced the bill in a statement Tuesday, referencing the HB2 fight of five years ago and negative publicity the international boycotts it sparked against the state.
“Five years after attacking transgender North Carolinians through the devastating impact of House Bill 2, NC House Republicans are once again targeting our transgender community,” Kern said. “It’s beyond disheartening to see that the North Carolina General Assembly has not learned the lessons of five years ago.”
“Young people all across this state, regardless of gender identity, deserve the opportunity to experience the benefits of being part of a sporting community — especially when trans youth already face disproportionate barriers to success in learning environments,” Kern said. “Equality NC believes that we can find a way to protect transgender youth and ensure that all youth, regardless of gender identity, have the opportunity to learn teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, self-discipline, and all the other lessons that sports provide. We call on the NCGA to do their part in protecting all youth by passing clear nondiscrimination protections for youth in sport and beyond.”
James Michael Nichols, communications director at Equality NC, said the bill is part of a new wave of anti-transgender legislation happening across the country.
In a statement Tuesday, Equality NC called the bill “rooted in invasive and inappropriate questions about the sex assigned to young people at birth and outdated generalizations about male and female bodies.”
“Now that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have achieved a baseline level of cultural acceptance in America, anti-LGBTQ politicians have moved on to a more vulnerable target: our transgender brothers, sisters, and siblings,” Nichols said. “Trans people have always been at the forefront of the fight for LGBTQ rights and acceptance and borne the brunt of violence, discrimination, and targeted attacks against our community. Now, politicians want to limit the ability of young, trans folks to experience camaraderie and teamwork at a crucial developmental stage of life. It’s up to all LGBTQ people to show up for trans youth right now when they need us most.”
In a Tuesday statement, the Campaign for Southern Equality pointed out the bill would preempt what the group said are existing, reasonable regulations from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association that allow transgender students to participate in sports in a way that is consistent with their gender identities.
From the NCHSAA statement on its policy:
“The NCHSAA allows participation in interscholastic athletics for all students, regardless of gender or gender identification. It is the intent that all students are able to compete on a level playing field in a safe, competitive and friendly environment, free of discrimination. Rules and regulations are intended to provide every student-athlete with equal opportunities to participate in athletics.
The NCHSAA regularly reviews all its policies. Prior to enacting the Gender Identity Policy, the NCHSAA engaged in a lengthy process of reviewing policies from other states, speaking with experts in the field, and seeking input from various stakeholders. This policy aligns the NCHSAA with other state athletic associations across the country while promoting the NCHSAA’s mission of inclusive sports participation in North Carolina.”
Allison Scott, Director of Impact & Innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality, said North Carolina is already beyond such legislation.
“This anti-transgender bill is an outlier in North Carolina, and it doesn’t reflect where we are as a state,” said, who is transgender. “We have come so far since the days of HB2, and we’re better off for it: LGBTQ people feel safer, business leaders are becoming more comfortable investing here, and our communities are more inclusive and respectful. It pains me to see some lawmakers, egged on by extreme anti-transgender activists running a coordinated national attack on trans youth, trying to drag us back into an era of discrimination.”
“The truth is that transgender youth deserve the same access as any other student to the many benefits of participating in school sports, including the physical, social, and emotional impacts,” Scott said. “To categorically deny transgender students the freedom to play alongside their peers is at odds with lawmakers’ duties to care for and protect our youth. To all of the transgender youth feeling attacked by this bill and others like it nationwide, I want to be sure you understand that you are loved, you are seen, and we are fighting with you.”