Jun 9, 2022 - News

Transgender sports ban moves forward in Pennsylvania

Illustration of a ref holding a whistle and a red penalty card with the transgender symbol on it.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Senate has approved a proposal to ban trans girls and women from competing in school sports that align with their gender identity.

Driving the news: Republican lawmakers and one Democrat, Sen. Lisa Boscola, passed the measure by a 30-20 vote on Tuesday.

The big picture: A record number of anti-trans bills were introduced in state legislatures throughout the country last year, and experts expect to see a similar wave of bills in 2022.

State of play: Under the measure, dubbed the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, girls and women sports would not "be open to students of the male sex," which is determined by their "biology and genetic make-up."

  • School sports would be designated as male, female, or co-ed or mixed, based on biology.
  • The legislation would apply to students in K-12 and public colleges, along with intramural or club athletic teams that are sponsored by a school.
  • The bill also allows for students and schools to sue over the restrictions.

Zoom out: The NCAA has a sport-by-sport policy for transgender participation, allowing the national governing body of that sport to decide.

What they're saying: Republican State Sen. Judy Ward, one of the bill's main sponsors, said on the Senate floor Tuesday that athletic opportunities for women are in jeopardy.

  • She said that men have "distinct and meaningful physical advantages over women, that translates to advantages in sports," like higher levels of testosterone.
  • The measure has "nothing to do with someone's gender or gender identity. This is about biological sex," Ward added.

Of note: Studies differ over whether trans women have an advantage in sports, Axios' Jeff Tracy reports.

The other side: ​​The proposal is "deeply disturbing" and attempts to solve a "fake problem," said Amal Bass, director of policy and advocacy for the nonprofit legal group Women's Law Project.

  • The proposal, she said, "is harmful in a variety of ways: It entrenches harmful gender stereotypes. It invites the harassment of transgender and gender-diverse youth and it is a bill that isn't helping anyone."

What to watch: The proposal now heads to the House for consideration.

  • If the measure makes it to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk, he plans to veto it, his spokesperson Elizabeth Rementer said.
  • "Any legislation designed to deny opportunities is both disturbing and dangerous and the governor would veto this legislation," she said.

Be smart: Republicans do not have a supermajority in the state House to overcome the governor's veto.


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