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N.C. lawmakers file bill to ban transgender athletes in sports

North Carolina’s bill comes five years after the state passed HB2, also known as the “bathroom bill,” in 2016.
The State Capitol building in Raleigh, N.C.
The State Capitol building in Raleigh, N.C.Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

North Carolina Republican lawmakers introduced a bill Monday that would bar transgender students in middle and high schools and colleges from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

The bill, which legislators introduced in the North Carolina House of Representatives, makes the state the 29th to consider such a measure in 2021, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican Rep. Mark Brody, said during a news conference Tuesday that he introduced the bill to prevent cisgender female athletes from being “pushed out of female sports, and all of their records are broken, scholarships lost and benefits of excelling are diminishing before this is addressed,” according to the Associated Press, though he acknowledged that he knew of no such incidents in North Carolina.

Rep Mark Brody of the North Carolina General Assembly.via ncleg.gov

There have been 84 bills filed this legislative session that target transgender people, according to the ACLU. Most bills have focused on school extracurricular sports teams and preventing doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to people under the age of 18.

North Carolina’s bill comes five years after the state passed HB2, also known as the “bathroom bill,” in 2016. That bill required North Carolinians to use restrooms that matched their sex assigned at birth, rather than their gender identity.

Quickly, business groups spoke out against HB2, which had a negative economic impact for the state. The NCAA, which regulates college sports, withdrew championship games from the state, and the NBA stripped Charlotte of hosting its All-Star Game until the law was repealed. Eventually, the legislature repealed the aspects of the law pertaining to use of bathrooms in 2017.

“This anti-transgender bill is an outlier in North Carolina, and it doesn’t reflect where we are as a state,” Allison Scott, director of impact and innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality, said. “We have come so far since the days of HB2, and we’re better off for it: LGBTQ people feel safer, business leaders are becoming more comfortable investing here and our communities are more inclusive and respectful. It pains me to see some lawmakers, egged on by extreme anti-transgender activists running a coordinated national attack on trans youth, trying to drag us back into an era of discrimination.”

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association currently has a policy that allows for transgender students to compete on teams that match their gender identity. Students must submit a Gender Identity Request Form that allows them to be cleared to compete by the NCHSAA.

“The NCHSAA studied the issue for over a year, looking at policies in other states, talking with families, listening to medical professionals and coordinating with the athletics programs of colleges and universities,” Craig White, supportive schools coordinator at the Campaign for Southern Equality, said about the policy.

North Carolina’s proposal is similar to the Fairness and Women’s Sports Act, which was passed in Idaho in 2020. Republican state Rep. Barbara Ehardt, the author of Idaho’s bill, confirmed that the Alliance Defending Freedom helped co-write it. Since the bill’s passage, a flood of similar bills have emerged, and the ADF has been linked to a group pushing model legislation as part of the Promise to America’s Children initiative, which is backed by a coalition of right-wing groups.

Idaho’s law has been halted by a district court following a lawsuit by the ACLU. The group has also said it plans to file similar lawsuits in states that pass legislation resembling Idaho’s.

So far, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is the only governor to have signed a trans athlete ban into law in 2021.

On March 4, Reeves said the law would “protect young girls from being forced to compete with biological males for athletic opportunities.”

The sponsor of Mississippi’s bill, state Sen. Angela Hill, told the Associated Press that she had been approached by “numerous coaches” who felt there was a need for a policy “because they are beginning to have some concerns of having to deal with this.”

Neither Hill nor other supporters of the bill presented evidence of transgender athletes competing in Mississippi schools or universities. Reeves and Hill are Republicans.

This week South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem returned a similar bill to the state legislature asking for changes before she could sign it into law. The changes centered around the bill including collegiate athletes, which could trigger a potential challenge by the NCAA.

Noem said during a press conference Monday that South Dakota was unlikely to win any challenge from the NCAA, given that it is a private organization. She then introduced an initiative called Defend Title IX Now, which aims to bring together multiple states to challenge the NCAA’s policy.

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