Op-Ed: Save Women’s Sports Act Attempts to Ban Trans Athletes from Participation in Louisiana Sports

The following is an open letter to Senator Beth Mizell and Representative Beryl Amedee regarding Senate Bill 172 and House Bill 466.

 

We, as organizations, advocates, educators and experts devoted to women’s equity in the state of Louisiana, publically call on Senator Beth Mizell and Representative Beryl Amedee to withdraw Senate Bill 172 and House Bill 466 of the 2020 legislative session. These bills, fraudulently titled the Save Women’s Sports Act, are a severe and needless intrusion upon current state policy governing the equal participation of athletes regardless of their gender. SB172 and HB 466 violate the basic rights of young transgender Louisianans, expose the state to expensive litigation and economic pressure and attempt to police gender norms in a manner which distracts from the genuine crises facing women and girls in the world of athletics while violating their privacy. 

Over 23,000 transgender people reside in the state of Louisiana, including one in 50 teenagers who identify as transgender according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, transgender youth are uniquely at risk for violence and harassment from their peers, family rejection, academic delinquency, substance use and suicide. Legislative efforts to target transgender people–such as SB172 and HB466–are known to increase the societal pressure faced by these youth, worsening the public health crisis they are currently enduring. 

Further, SB172 and HB466 as written are a clear violation of these students’ rights under both Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, both of which are widely understood by federal courts to protect students from discrimination on the basis of their gender identity. If passed, SB172 and HB466 will certainly be met with extensive litigation efforts at the expense of Louisiana taxpayers. 

Other efforts to restrict the rights of transgender people have resulted in massive losses to the economies of states where such proposals have been introduced or passed. Large employers–rightfully concerned about the rights and beliefs of their employees and consumers–have expressed concern about similar efforts in other states including the potential withdrawal of contracts, conventions, plants, jobs and other opportunities for local economies. If passed, SB172 and HB466 will leave a public stain on the state of Louisiana serving as a warning sign to investors, contractors, executives and tourists otherwise eager to visit our state. 

Ostensibly introduced to protect the fairness of women’s athletics, SB172 and HB466 were drafted and proposed without the support or consultation of any of the undersigned organizations and individuals, who have been leading efforts to advance women’s equality in our state. Had the drafters of SB172 and HB466 done so, they would have found those closest to the efforts to advance women’s equality in Louisiana stand in strong opposition to these bills and find the fair participation of transgender athletes a necessary component of the equal playing field our girls deserve. 

Seventeen states and countless schools around the country have policies ensuring the full participation of transgender athletes while preserving the accomplishments and opportunities presented to all athletes. In none of these states have transgender athletes presented an unfair advantage when allowed to participate according to their gender identity. Similar policies have been endorsed by the International Olympic Committee, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Women’s Sports Foundation. 

As written, SB172 and HB466 are a misguided effort to offer the state as a means of enforcing gender norms. Under this proposal, all athletes would be potentially subjected to invasive physical examinations–including genetic and hormonal testing–by government officials who would then be tasked with determining their “biological sex” by applying standards rejected by the entire medical mainstream, including the American Medical Association, the Endocrine Society and the National Institute of Health. 

Such a massive overreach into the lives and bodies of young women is in the service of a cynical political effort to deploy the very existence of transgender people as a political wedge. In doing so, the proponents of SB172 and HB466 trivialize the many barriers and crises impacting female athletics today–ranging from access and funding disparities to harassment, abuse and mental health issues including eating disorders. 

We, the undersigned, are ourselves devoted to the full participation of all willing students in Louisiana’s athletic programs. If the proponents of these bills truly wish to join us, they should set aside this unnecessary and alarming proposal. 

Signed, AAUW of Louisiana, ACLU of Louisiana, Women With a Vision, Inc., Louisiana Progress Action, Lift Louisiana, Baton Rouge NOW, Louisiana NOW, Ruston-Grambling NOW, New Orleans Abortion Fund, Progressive Social Network of Baton Rouge, Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Louisiana Coalition for ERA/Equal Pay, Independent Women’s Organization, League of Women Voters Louisiana, Citizen SHE United, National Council of Jewish Women – Greater New Orleans Section & Unitarian Universalist Voices for Reproductive Freedom