The Tennessee legislature is bringing back a measure that would require transgender youth to play in sports teams that match their sex assigned at birth.
The bill (HB 3/SB 228) was initially introduced last year, but the pandemic made it stall.
Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka, said the measure is meant to protect the fairness of sporting events.
“We have an obligation to make sure that our sports are fair,” Cepicky said. “That you are competing against individuals like you.”
When explaining the bill, he acknowledged a lawsuit could be expected if approved.
“Under legal counsel I’ve been advised to be very narrow on my definition because everything I say can be further used down the line,” Cepicky said.
The prospect of a legal challenge is very real. A similar measure passed by the Idaho legislature and signed into law last year was blocked by a federal judge.
Aly Chapman is the mother of transgender child who testified during Tuesday’s meeting. She said the measure is discriminatory and would end up harming transgender and gender-diverse youth.
“Legislating the segregation of our diverse students’ sports participation by their sex assigned at birth could be a harmful precedent for all minority children,” said Chapman, who is also part of the Tennessee chapter of GLSEN. “Not only does this discriminatory bill undermines their ability to safely belong to their community, it essentially excludes them from school and sports participation.”
The measure still has a long way to go, but it’s likely that it will pass this year. That’s even though it’s unclear how many transgender athletes are in the state or whether it’s an issue in the state’s schools.
Still, many Republicans are in favor of the measure, including freshman Rep. Michele Carringer, R-Knoxville.
“We do not operate like California and New York … and there’s a reason why we all want to live here, in this great state of Tennessee,” Carringer said. “We don’t need any more stuff confusing our children.”