Updated Apr 10, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Lawmakers criticize proposed Title IX changes guiding trans athletes

Illustration of a soccer ball with the patches colored in light pink and blue, similar to the transgender flag.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

More than a dozen state legislators sent a letter to the Biden administration Monday, criticizing proposed Title IX policy changes guiding the eligibility of transgender athletes on school sports teams.

Driving the news: "There is no such thing as an acceptable 'compromise' that limits transgender Americans access to equal rights," the letter from 14 transgender and nonbinary legislators from across the U.S. states.

  • "When it comes to policy addressing trans athletes, our stance is this: Trans athletes belong in sports. Full stop," the letter adds.

Catch up quick: The Department of Education unveiled a proposal last week to change Title IX rules guiding the rights of transgender athletes.

  • This rule would bar public schools and colleges that receive federal funding from outright banning transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.
  • But the proposed regulation would allow some exclusions. It states that "in some instances, particularly in competitive high school and college athletic environments, some schools may adopt policies that limit transgender students' participation."

Details: "While we understand the administration may have been attempting to provide legal protections & clarity, in actuality these proposed rule changes will simply provide those who seek to deny us our rights a roadmap for how to do so," the letter states.

  • The lawmakers urged the administration to revise the policy proposal "in a way that allows trans people to fully participate in the sports of their choosing."

Zoom out: There has been an uptick in GOP-led states barring trans girls from participating in school sports teams that align with their gender identity.

  • "Twenty states have now passed sports bans, often targeting a mere handful of trans athletes in their respective states," Monday's letter said.

What they're saying: "Trans people belong in sports," Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr said in a tweet. "Policies must begin with the presumption of full inclusion & provide a pathway for participation in all levels of sports."

Meanwhile, a White House spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the Biden-administration was "committed to protecting LGBTQI+ kids at school" and that's why the Education Department "proposed a rule to clarify that LGBTQI+ kids have fundamental civil rights protections against discrimination in our nation's schools."

  • The spokesperson said the plan "helps clarify how those protections would work in the context" of athletics and emphasized that it's a proposed rule and "the public can weigh in during this 30-day public comment period."
  • Representatives for the Education Department did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from a White House spokesperson.

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