May 7, 2022 - Sports

Tennessee governor signs trans athlete ban for collegiate sports

Photo of Bill Lee in a plaid shirt speaking into a Fox microphone at a stadium
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee attends the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on July 15, 2020 in Bristol, Tennessee. Photo: Jared C. Tilton via Getty Images

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed into law Friday a bill banning transgender women from competing on college sports teams that align with their gender identity.

Why it matters: It builds off similar laws targeting high school sports, which have swept across the country in the past year. Republicans backing the bills say this kind of legislation ensures fairness in women's sports, though multiple states that have passed such bans have been unable to provide evidence showing trans athletes have unfair advantages in competitions.

Details: A summary of the bill states that an "institution of higher education must rely upon the sex listed on the student's original birth certificate issued at or near the time of birth."

  • The measure also protects schools that comply with the law, as well as students who report violations.
  • If a violation "deprives a student of an athletic opportunity or causes direct or indirect harm to the student, then the student will have a private cause of action for injunctive relief, damages, and other relief, plus costs and including attorney fees."

What they're saying: LGBTQ advocates slammed the enactment of the bill on Friday.

  • “This law sends a horrible message that trans and nonbinary youth can be excluded from the many benefits of participating in sports," Chris Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, said in a statement.
  • "Legislation crafted from animus and ignorance protects no one."

The big picture: LGBTQ advocates and health experts have warned that the series of anti-trans bills will contribute to mental health crises among children.

  • 83 percent of trans and nonbinary youth said they have worried about trans people being denied the ability to play sports due to state or local laws, according to a recent survey published by The Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth under 25.

Go deeper... Poll: Most LGBTQ kids' mental health negatively impacted by anti-trans legislation

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