Mar 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Arkansas bans trans women, girls from school sports that align with their gender identity

Photo of Asa Hutchinson sitting and speaking

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a law Thursday barring transgender women and girls from participating in school sports that align with their gender identity.

Why it matters: Republicans in at least 25 states have introduced more than 60 bills targeting trans youth since January. Arkansas is the latest state to pursue school sports as a vehicle for anti-trans legislation.

Details: The ban covers both K-12 and collegiate sports, and will take effect this summer if it's not blocked by a legal challenge.

  • Under the new law, any student or school that suffers "direct or indirect harm" can sue for violating the ban, AP reports.

What they're saying: The law will help "promote and maintain fairness in women's sporting events," Hutchinson said in a statement.

  • Republicans have argued that trans women and girls have an unfair advantage in sports, but little evidence suggests that trans women hold a competitive advantage over their cisgender counterparts, according to Axios' Jeff Tracy.
  • "Banning trans athletes is cruel and wrong, but it’s also illegal," the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted after the bill became law.

Medical and child-welfare groups say the measure could cause long-lasting damage to trans youth, per AP.

The big picture: Significant research has found that athletic participation can offer trans youth a number of benefits, including higher self-esteem and fewer depressive symptoms.

  • Hundreds of college athletes have pushed the NCAA to turn away from holding championships in states with such bans, per AP.

What’s next: Several other bills on trans youth participation in sports and access to health care are up for hearings in the coming days and months.

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