KY Senate passes bill banning transgender girls from girls’ sports, heads to governor
The Save Women’s Sports Act has already passed in 11 states since 2020, most recently in South Dakota and Iowa earlier this year
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Senate Thursday granted final passage on Senate Bill 83, the ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’, that will ban trans girls from girls’ sports. The bill now heads to Gov. Beshear’s desk.
Several organizations reacting to the final passage:
THE FAMILY FOUNDATION
“The Family Foundation applauds the Kentucky General Assembly for its final passage of Senate Bill 83, the Save Women’s Sports Act, which provides commonsense protections for girls in athletics in Kentucky all the way through college. SB 83 passed with a final concurrence vote in the Senate today and now heads to the desk of Governor Andy Beshear.
“Biology matters, especially in sports,” said David Walls, executive director of The Family Foundation. “As our society increasingly ignores science and biological reality, women are paying the price. Allowing males to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women. Thankfully, with SB 83, Kentucky will join the growing number of states that value female athletes over radical gender ideology.”
“We call on Governor Beshear to immediately sign this commonsense, bipartisan, and broadly supported bill into law,” Walls concluded.
Walls also expressed his thanks to Senator Robby Mills and Representative Ryan Dotson for their leadership on this important legislation in the Kentucky Senate and House.
The Save Women’s Sports Act would protect women’s and girls’ athletic opportunities, including in college, by ensuring that only biological females can compete in female sports contests. The need for the Save Women’s Sports Act, and the necessity of including college athletes, has been on full display as swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male, recently won a NCAA Women’s Swimming Championship, knocking a female to 2nd place. Letting males play in the same category as girls denies opportunities to biological girls, unfairly puts girls at a disadvantage, and potentially even discourages girls from playing sports.
The Save Women’s Sports Act has already passed in 11 states since 2020, most recently in South Dakota and Iowa earlier this year.”
THE FAIRNESS CAMPAIGN
“The Fairness Campaign condemns the final passage of Kentucky’s anti-transgender Senate Bill 83, which seeks to ban transgender girls from playing on sports teams in Kentucky schools that match their gender identities from sixth grade through college. The Kentucky Senate approved the bill on a final concurrence vote of 25-9 tonight. Fairness now calls on Governor Andy Beshear to veto the measure.
“Shame on the Kentucky General Assembly for prioritizing discrimination against some of our state’s most vulnerable youth,” said Fairness Campaign Executive Director Chris Hartman. “Now the only transgender girl we know currently playing sports in Kentucky schools, a 12-year-old seventh grader who started her middle school’s field hockey team, will be denied the opportunity to play with her friends during her eighth grade year. The Fairness Campaign now calls on Kentucky’s most pro-equality Governor Andy Beshear to protect the lives of transgender youth and let all Kentucky kids play by vetoing Senate Bill 83.”
ACLU OF KENTUCKY
“The Kentucky Senate today granted final passage to Senate Bill 83 to ban trans girls from girls’ sports. This bill is a solution in search of a non-existent problem. It is rooted in hate and unconstitutional. If Senate Bill 83 becomes law, lawmakers will jeopardize our children’s mental health, physical well-being, and ability to access educational opportunities comparable to their peers.
Senate Bill 83 violates students’ Constitutional rights to equal protection and privacy. It also violates Title IX of the Civil Rights Act by imposing a wholesale ban on transgender girls from participating in athletics consistent with their gender identity. Similar bans have been blocked in federal courts in Idaho and West Virginia. A challenge to including trans girls was dismissed in Connecticut.
Senate Bill 83 was amended to ban girls and women from sixth grade through college. This could jeopardize colleges’ and universities’ participation in organizations like the National Collegiate Athletic Association because Senate Bill 83 could force Kentucky teams to violate NCAA policies.
Trans kids, just like all kids, simply want to participate in the activities they love, including athletics. Trans students participate in sports for the same reasons other young people do: to challenge themselves, improve fitness, and be part of a team. Excluding trans students deprives them of opportunities available to their peers and sends the message they are not worthy of a full life.
Proponents of SB83 provided no examples of any Kentucky students being harmed by including trans girls in girls’ sports, even when directly asked in a Senate committee hearing. Lawmakers have also ignored the positions of leading women’s athletics organizations that support inclusion, including the Women’s Sports Foundation and the National Women’s Law Center.
While there are no instances of inclusion causing harm, we know for a fact that many children will be harmed if SB83 becomes law. Senators heard from multiple trans athletes, including Fischer Wells, a 12-year-old girl who recruited friends to start her school’s field hockey team. The House Education Committee did not even allow opponents of SB83 to testify and turned Fischer away after she traveled to the Capitol to share how SB83 would affect her. Committee Chair Huff did allow The Family Foundation to testify. Lawmakers in both chambers have now ignored Fischer’s pleas to let her play with her friends and voted to kick her off her team; Kentucky senators have now done it twice.
Transgender students already live and go to school in Kentucky, play sports, and enjoy time with their friends. They deserve the chance to succeed and thrive like any other student. The adults in the General Assembly should focus on what students, teachers, and schools really need, rather than single out vulnerable children to score cheap political points.
We strongly urge Governor Beshear to veto this hateful, unconstitutional legislation.
To all the students who may be affected by this legislation: we stand by you and will not stop fighting. You are cherished. You are loved. You belong. – ACLU-KY spokesperson Samuel Crankshaw”
HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
“Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) condemns the Kentucky State Senate for yet again advancing SB 83, a bill to ban transgender youth from playing sports consistent with their gender identity. The bill effectively excludes transgender girls from all sports activities, increasing their isolation and denying them the social, physical and emotional benefits of sports. The bill now heads to Governor Beshear’s desk – one step away from becoming law.
If signed, Kentucky not only risks tarnishing its business-friendly reputation – such policies negatively impact businesses operations and finances – the Commonwealth would likely join the ranks of West Virginia, Idaho, Tennessee and Florida, where similar legislation has faced costly lawsuits that needlessly waste taxpayer dollars.
“The benefits of participation in school sports are wide-ranging, they build character and help kids remain active. Unfortunately, today Kentucky Legislators voted to deny trans kids who are simply trying to navigate their childhoods the opportunity and benefits that come from playing school sports. While their lawmakers failed them today, we urge Governor Beshear to be the ally that their legislators were not,” said Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley. “During his Governorship, Beshear has used the term ‘Team Kentucky’ as a catchphrase for the state’s shared values of civility, unity, and collective distaste for bullies. But the phrase ‘Team Kentucky’ in a state where a child is denied an opportunity to play the sports they love because they are transgender would be an empty slogan. With SB 83 headed to the Governor’s desk and the well-being of transgender youth in the balance, we urge Governor Beshear to veto this bill, to live up to Kentucky values, and to make ‘Team Kentucky’ mean something.”
Two Republican governors, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox in Utah and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed similar anti-trans sports bans earlier this week, rejecting the discriminatory bills approved by their legislatures. In a letter explaining his veto, Gov. Cox cited high suicide rates among transgender youth and stated, “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.” Both Gov. Holcomb and Gov. Cox also cited concerns over legal challenges, which have followed similar laws in other states.
The Kentucky Senate’s passage of SB 83 comes after a historically bad 2021 session that saw a record number of anti-transgender bills introduced and passed across the country. Caught in the crosshairs of anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials’ divisive political strategy are kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence — kids who face relentless targeting and increasing levels of discrimination in their community, as evidenced by the record incidents of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-binary people in 2021.
By including collegiate athletics, SB 83 runs afoul of NCAA rules, threatening Kentucky’s participation in NCAA sports and championship tournaments.
The NCAA’s recent guidance asks each sport’s national governing body to determine rules that balance fairness and inclusion. These decisions are best left to the experts in each sport alongside medical professionals.
The bill may trigger a lawsuit and federal courts have overwhelmingly ruled in favor of transgender rights in recent years.
Many federal courts have upheld LGBTQ+ rights, including numerous rulings on Title IX protections for transgender students. Idaho recently passed a law restricting transgender student-athletes, and Chief Judge David Nye of the U.S. District Court of Idaho, who was nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed 100-0 by the U.S. Senate, ruled against it. There is also an injunction against West Virginia’s law and pending lawsuits against similar bans in Tennessee, Florida, and more.
SB 83 targets some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable kids—again.
Beginning with “Bathroom Bills” several years ago, national organizations have prioritized different versions of legislation targeting transgender youth in dozens of states. Because of the difficulties and discrimination they face, more than half of transgender youth have seriously considered suicide, according to the Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ+ Mental Health. Over two-thirds of LGBTQ+ youth said recent debates over state laws that target transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health, according to a 2022 Trevor Project poll. Legislation like SB 83 contributes to the climate of negative messages and exclusion transgender youth face.
Anti-Transgender Attacks As A Political Talking Point
Legislators in a record 34 states introduced 147 anti-transgender bills in 2021, focusing on discriminatory anti-equality measures to drive a wedge between their constituents and score short-term political points. In 2021, legislators in twelve states enacted anti-LGBTQ+ bills despite failing to provide examples of what exactly they were legislating against.
Merely introducing anti-transgender bills and peddling anti-transgender rhetoric has already had a damaging impact, leading to LGBTQ+ youth resources being surreptitiously removed from a government website, 11-year old kids literally having trouble sleeping, and a school district banning graphic novels with a transgender character after a parent’s complaint. 2021 and 2020 were the deadliest and second deadliest years on record for trans & gender non-conforming people respectively, with the Human Rights Campaign tracking at least 50 violent deaths in 2021 alone. A new Trevor Project survey shows that a startling 85% of transgender or gender non-binary youth say their mental health has been negatively affected by these legislative attacks.
Anti-transgender content on social media is also a radicalizing issue all by itself– in large part due to transgender young people being among the most marginalized, voiceless, and defenseless communities in America and because right-wing arguments play on long-standing misogynistic, racist, and sexist tropes about gender roles.
Businesses, Advocacy Groups, and Athletes Oppose Anti-Trans Legislation
More than 180 major U.S. corporations have stood up and spoken out to oppose anti-transgender legislation being proposed in states across the country. Companies like Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, Airbnb, Dell, Dow, Google, IBM, Lyft, Marriott, Microsoft, Nike and Paypal have objected to anti-LGBTQ state legislation. Four of the largest U.S. food companies also condemned “dangerous, discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender and nonbinary people,” and the Walton Family Foundation issued a statement expressing “alarm” at the trend of anti-transgender legislation that recently became law in Arkansas.
Many are rightly protective of the legacy of women’s sports in this country, and a robust Title IX is central to that legacy. Importantly, advocates for women and girls in sports – such as the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports, and others – support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports. So do prominent female athletes including Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe, and Cheryl Reeve. That’s because while there are real issues facing women’s sports, including a lack of resources devoted to supporting them, transgender participation in athletics is not one of them.
The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1,000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ+ people, and transgender children in particular.
Nearly 550 college athletes have stood up to anti-transgender legislation by demanding the NCAA pull championships from states that have enacted anti-trans sports laws.
Trans Equality Is Popular Across All Demographics
The reality is that however sensational and polarizing this issue may seem, public opinion polling across the country shows strong support for trans-inclusive and pro-equality policies:
Recent PRRI data shows a large majority of Americans (82%) favor laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, and majorities of Republicans (67%), independents (85%), and Democrats (92%) favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.
A PBS/NPR/Marist poll states that 67% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, oppose the anti-transgender sports ban legislation proliferating across 30 states.
In a 10-swing-state poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group in 2020 showed:
- At least 60% of Trump voters across each of the ten swing states say transgender people should be able to live freely and openly.
- At least 87% of respondents across each of the ten swing states say transgender people should have equal access to medical care, with many states breaking 90% support.
- When respondents were asked about how they prioritized the importance of banning transgender people from participating in sports as compared to other policy issues, the issue came in dead last, with between 1% and 3% prioritizing the issue.
Another poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group revealed that, with respect to transgender youth participation in sports, the public’s strong inclination is on the side of fairness and equality for transgender student-athletes. 73% of voters agree that “sports are important in young people’s lives. Young transgender people should be allowed opportunities to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.”