Tennessee Advances Legislation to Ban Transgender Athletes

The Tennessee Senate advanced a bill on Monday that will potentially have a major impact on school athletics. The GOP-controlled Senate overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing in girls' sports. However, the bill is facing criticism from the Tennessee ACLU as it heads to the House for another vote.

The bill, as summarized by News Channel 11, "requires, for the purposes of participation in a middle school or high school interscholastic athletic activity or event, that a student’s gender be determined by the student’s sex at the time of the student’s birth, as indicated on the student’s original birth certificate." According to News Channel 5, 27 Republicans voted in favor of the bill. All six Democrats voted against it. Lawmakers on both sides then provided explanations for why they voted each way.

For the Democrats, they said that the bill would only cause further difficulties for the minors. "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 whose lives are already hard already," said Nashville Democrat Senator Jeff Yarbro.

The Republicans took a different approach and said that the bill prevents school-aged girls from having "unfair odds" during their respective sporting events. "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.

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"Attempting to embed discrimination against transgender girls into state law, Tennessee senators voted today to ban transgender girls from participating in school sports," the Tennessee ACLU said in a statement. "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 statement continued. "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."