I signed the bill to preserve women's athletics and ensure fair competition. This legislation responds to damaging federal policies that stand in opposition to the years of progress made under Title IX and I commend members of the General Assembly for their bipartisan work.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) March 26, 2021
Student athletes in Tennessee must now prove their sex matches what was determined at birth before they can compete on teams for public middle or high schools.
Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville said last week that supporters of the bill could not cite a single instance of transgender athletes having caused problems in the state.
“This legislation appears to be working its way around the country with no problem to solve, just a point to make,” Clemmons said. “We’re legislating an issue here … that has not arisen, by the sponsor’s own admission in committee.”
Opponents of the measure also say it violates Title IX rules prohibiting sex discrimination. They point to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal appeals court as signs that the measure is not legal.
Similar bills were introduced in 20 state legislatures this year. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed his state legislature’s version of the measure into law Thursday, a day before Tennessee became the third state with a transgender sports ban. The state of Idaho, which was the first to enact such legislation, is being challenged in federal court over its law.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee indicated it will sue the state “should any student be excluded” because of this law. In a statement earlier in the week, its executive director, Hedy Weinberg, said the “discriminatory and unconstitutional” bill compromises children’s health, safety, and social and emotional development.
“Transgender girls are girls. Transgender boys are boys,” Weinberg said. “They simply want to participate in school sports for the same reason as anybody else: to find a sense of belonging and social engagement with their peers, to be a part of a team, and to challenge themselves.”
BREAKING: @GovBillLee just signed a bill banning transgender student athletes from playing sports in Tennessee.
Governor, our trans youth have a right to live full lives – just like everyone else – and we will continue to fight for them.
We will see you in court.
— ACLU of Tennessee (@aclutn) March 26, 2021
The sports ban for transgender girls is only one measure in a slate of anti-LGBT legislation making its way through the legislature this session. You can find more on the so-called “bathroom bill” and a proposed ban on transitioning treatment for children before puberty in WPLN News’ breakdown here.