NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s GOP-dominant Senate has advanced legislation that would ban transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports. On Monday, 27 Republicans voted in favor of the measure while all six Democratic members voted against it.
The bill has faced heavy criticism that it will likely face costly legal challenges if signed into law.
However, despite threats of pending litigation, nearly a dozen states this year have lawmakers backing restrictions on athletics or gender-confirming health care for trans minors this year.
Despite the overwhelming passage of the bill, democrats still voiced their frustrations about its intent.
"In passing this we're not going to be helping a person. We're not going to be helping a kid. We're only going to be making life harder for kids who's lives are already hard already," said Nashville Democrat Senator Jeff Yarbro.
Republicans said this bill prevents school aged girls from having unfair odds at sports. Lawmakers said 17 other states with laws allowing transgender students to compete in girl sports had parents "baffled".
"No one has spoken up for the young women in the 17 other states who are losing their place on a podium to boys of the opposite sex who identify as girls competing in those events," said Senator Kerry Roberts, a Republican out of Springfield.
After passing the Senate, the bill must now clear the Republican-controlled House, which is likely according to House Speaker Cameron Sexton.
The Tennessee ACLU released the following statement in response:
“Attempting to embed discrimination against transgender girls into state law, Tennessee senators voted today to ban transgender girls from participating in school sports. This hateful and unconstitutional bill is unnecessary — the bill sponsors have admitted that they do not know of a single instance of a Tennessee student facing any harm from a transgender athlete playing sports. Protecting women’s sports is important, but transgender girls do not threaten them. The vast majority of transgender students are not elite athletes. They just want to play sports for fun, with friends and classmates, to feel a sense of community and camaraderie, and to learn to respect and work together with coaches and teammates. We should not deny these life-changing opportunities to youth just because they are transgender. Should any transgender student be excluded because of this legislation, we are prepared to fight this bill in court.”
And the following groups released a joint statement saying the move to ban transgender students from their team of choice would be a mistake: Tennesse Democratic Party LGBTQ Caucus, Chair Shayne Bilbrey, Tennessee Young Democrats, President Jolie Grace Wareham, Tennessee Young Democrats LGBTQ Caucus, Chair Eric A. Patton, Tennessee College Democrats, Chair Keely Sage, Tennessee High School Democrats, Chair Jeffrie Chambers
The Senate’s passage of SB0228, effectively banning transgender students from participating in sports, is going to be looked back on as one of the biggest mistakes this chamber has ever made in the modern era. Not only does it endanger billions of dollars in federal education funding and tourism dollars, but it has also singled out minority children who are already subjected to bullying and harassment, adding to their torment with legislation.
Tennessee students were subjected to their genitals being debated on the floor of the Tennessee Senate today in regards to being able to play sports. As Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro said of the bill “All we’re doing is making life hard for kids whose lives are plenty hard already.”
When Senator Heidi Campbell asked the bill’s sponsor if he had talked to any transgender people about this bill, his answer was no. If that senator had, he might find that transgender students are deeply hurt by what this legislation suggests. All Tennessee students deserve the right to an education and afterschool activities. In 35 years, the TSSAA has never had an instance of any eligibility questions due to sex. This government overreach is excessive and extends long arms to your child’s gym class and sports participation. These cowardly politicians in the supermajority are gleefully giving hateful organizations your tax dollars to litigate their extremist, hateful views.
If the House does not stop this ridiculous bill, it will subject all Tennessee Students to harm. Not just the Transgender community - who they continuously use degrading terminology to refer to - but all students who depend on funding from the federal government in regard to Title 9, money we will spend litigating in court, and money lost from organizations that will no longer come to Tennessee because of our Legislature’s hateful recklessness.
Courts across the county have made clear that legislation discriminating against Transgender students is unconstitutional. The Tennessee House of Representatives needs to step up, do the right thing, and reject this bill.