Bill to prevent transgender girls from playing sports in Louisiana rejected by committee | Legislature
Legislation that would have prevented transgender youth from participating in K-12 women‘s sports was rejected Tuesday by the Louisiana House Education Committee.
State Representative Beryl Amedée said so House Bill 542 aimed to level the playing field by prohibiting anyone who was not a woman at birth from participating in organized girls’ sports. The committee voted 5 for and 6 against, refusing to advance the measure in the plenary chamber.
Thirty-one state assemblies across the country are considering similar legislation to exclude transgender youth from school athletics. Three of these bills – in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee – were recently enacted. The governor of South Dakota vetoed the measure passed by the state legislature.
Republican of Gray of the parish of Terrebonne, Amedée is an ordained pastor and assistant pastor at the Vision Christian Center, an evangelical congregation. She is also vice-chair of the executive committee of the Louisiana Republican Party.
While this is not much of a problem in Louisiana, Amedée argued that his measure was not against transgender people, but protected women.
“I don’t see this as discrimination against women, but against transgender people,” said New Orleans representative Aimee Freeman, Democrat.
Lawmakers noted that major sports organizations have withdrawn their events from other states that have adopted similar restrictions. New Orleans is set to host the NCAA Basketball Final Four tournament in April 2022 and some lawmakers feared passage of the legislation would prompt the NCAA to move the Final Four, one of the biggest and most lucrative sporting events, from Louisiana.
“It’s their loss, not ours,” Amedée said, adding that she felt protecting the integrity of women’s sport was worth more than any dollar amount.
“Sometimes we have to do the right thing,” Amedee said, “even when we are suffering financial loss.”
Claston Bernard, a 6-foot-4 former Olympian, stood at the courtroom table to show how he towers over women. the former LSU athlete noted that it had been years since he competed. Still, he can still cross a high jump bar of over 6 feet – high enough to place him among the elite female athletes in this event.
“This bill is unfair to women,” said Bernard, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican in the recent congressional 2nd District race. Amedee touched his arm. “Oh, I’m sorry to oppose this bill is unfair to women.”
Its legislation was supported by the Louisiana Family Forum, a powerful lobby group representing conservative Christians, the Louisiana Baptist Convention, which has more than 850,000 followers, and the Louisiana Republican Party.
Episcopalian priest Tommy Dillon, of Baton Rouge, testified against the law, saying the bill would only serve to marginalize transgender youth. “We must respect the dignity of all of God’s children,” he told the committee.
Nithya Ravidran, a doctor of osteopathy who works with children and adolescents in New Orleans, said the outcome of the legislation would isolate transgender youth and lead to more suicides.
The effort is not yet over because Senate Bill 156 – also known as the “Women’s Sports Equity Act” – cleared the Senate Education Committee last week and will be procedurally ready for a vote in the Senate later this week. With almost identical wording, SB156 would also require sports teams or sports events for women in public schools to be composed only of “biological women,” or those who presumably were listed as women on their birth certificates.
Supporters say transgender girls are born taller and faster, giving them an unfair advantage in competition. Opponents say the legislation is rooted in fear and may violate federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination.
Democrat Governor John Bel Edwards opposes legislation and other measures targeting transgender youth.
The Louisiana High School Athletic Association has already taken a position that student athletes “must compete on the gender of their birth certificate unless they have undergone a gender reassignment.”
Vote to ban anyone who is not a woman at birth from participating in organized sports for girls (5): The representatives Beryl Amedée, R-Houma; Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge; Chuck Owen, R-Rosepine; Vinney St. Blanc, R-Franklin; and Phillip Tarver, R-Lake Charles.
Vote against HB542 (6): Representatives Ken Brass, D-Vacherie; Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans; Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge; Stephanie Hilferty, R-New Orleans; Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer; and Tammy Phelps, D-Shreveport.