RALEIGH, N.C. — Several North Carolina Republican legislators have filed a bill that would block transgender women and girls from joining women’s high school and college athletic teams, joining the culture-war tussle that has swept several states.
Their bill, which would apply to middle and high schools and colleges — both public and private — comes as legislators in nearly 30 other states have proposed similar prohibitions. Bills in Idaho and Mississippi have become law, while others are being debated in several more state legislatures.
A bill sponsor acknowledged he knew of no controversies in North Carolina when a transgender girl or woman had joined a team or competed in a sport designated for women. But it was important to be proactive in addressing the issue in North Carolina, said Rep. Mark Brody, a Union County Republican.
“I do not want to wait until biological females are pushed out of female sports, and all of their records are broken, scholarships lost and benefits of excelling are diminishing before this is addressed,” Brody said on Tuesday at a Legislative Building news conference.
The North Carolina bill, filed on Monday, would require intramural and interscholastic teams to be designated as male or for men, female or for women, or co-ed.
Teams and sports designated as female or women’s activities wouldn’t be open to the male students, and a person’s sex would be defined as based “solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
The “Save Women’s Sports Act” also creates a legal cause of action for a “biological female student” to sue if she alleges suffering from a school violating the policy or retaliation from the school for reporting a violation.
LGBT groups and Democratic allies have blasted such legislation. They say the measures discriminate against transgender people who are already vulnerable to bigotry and just want to compete in sports like anyone else. President Joe Biden signed an executive order that bans discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere.
Equality North Carolina said in a news release that the bill is rooted in “outdated generalizations about male and female bodies.”
“Young people all across this state, regardless of gender identity, deserve the opportunity to experience the benefits of being part of a sporting community — especially when trans youth already face disproportionate barriers to success in learning environments,” Equality NC education policy director Rebby Kern said.
But the bill’s supporters said physical differences between men and women are clear and women face little chance to succeed if they are forced to compete with transgender women or girls. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association does have a policy that allows transgender students to participate in athletics, but Brody argues the policy’s details lack transparency.
In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem issued last week a partial veto of a transgender sports bill, and recommending to lawmakers that collegiate sports be excluded from the measure. Noem faced pressure from business interests to back off the legislation and social conservatives to embrace it.
Tuesday’s news conference took place exactly five years after the General Assembly passed a law that in part required transgender people to use restrooms in many public buildings that corresponded to their sex at birth.
The law, known as House Bill 2, drew national condemnation and prompted several large corporations and sports teams to relocate events to other states or reconsider expanding in North Carolina. That measure was partially repealed in 2017.