GOP Governors Sign Anti-Trans Sports Bills in Arizona and Oklahoma

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt surrounded himself with young girls as he signed a bill banning trans girls from playing sports.
Office of Governor Doug Ducey

Arizona and Oklahoma have become the latest states to finalize legislation banning transgender youth from participating in sports in accordance with their gender identity — and Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona has also approved a bill targeting gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Ducey and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed the anti-trans bills into law on March 30 — the eve of Transgender Day of Visibility — and both governors borrowed from the prevailing GOP narrative to explain away their decisions to pass legislation against trans youth. Stitt said his state is “protecting women’s sports” and “ensuring a level playing field,” while Ducey attempted to stay ahead of any criticism of the sports and health bills by saying the legislative effort aims to “address these two specific issues while ensuring that transgender individuals continue to receive the same dignity, respect, and kindness as every individual in our society.” There is nothing in the legislation that purports to be supportive of trans individuals.

The ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights said they would file a lawsuit against Arizona in response to the passage of the health law, which blocks minors from undergoing gender-affirming surgery. The measure also initially sought to bar puberty blockers — but that part was nixed prior to passage, according to The Advocate. Notably, Ducey also signed a restrictive law banning abortions after 15 weeks.

Oklahoma and Arizona lawmakers passed the sports bills on March 24 during a week of significant movement on anti-trans bills nationwide. Among other states, Kentucky, Indiana, and Utah also rushed to pass similar legislation — and lawmakers went out of their way to override Governors Eric Holcomb of Indiana when he vetoed the bill. Utah Governor Spencer Cox also vetoed the anti-trans bill, but did not experience the same kind of resistance. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear is a Democrat and has been praised for supporting LGBTQ individuals, but he has not indicated whether he intends to sign the bill.

The rapid speed of legislation pushing through multiple states has prompted some advocates to remind lawmakers that it was only recently that they were dismissing anti-trans sports bills as unnecessary. Cathryn Oakley, the state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, noted that Oklahoma Republican Senate President Greg Treat said last year that the anti-trans sports bill was “a solution in search of a problem.” Treat went on to vote in favor of the bill this year.

Tamya Cox-Touré, the executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said the government’s measures against trans youth would leave a negative impact on a population that is already vulnerable.

“Transgender people belong everywhere, but with the swipe of a pen and a public display, Governor Stitt has sent a clear message to Oklahoma’s vulnerable transgender youth that they are not welcome or accepted in our State,” Cox-Touré said in a written statement. “Transgender students already live and go to school in our State, they play sports and enjoy time with their friends, and they deserve the chance to succeed and thrive like any other student.”

Jennifer Allen Arroz, who serves as the executive director of ACLU of Arizona, said in a written statement that lawmakers opted to advance the legislative attacks against the wishes of doctors, parents, advocates, and trans youth.

“Despite the overwhelming pleas to end these discriminatory bills, legislators were intent on using trans youth as political ploys and have now passed a bill that prohibits trans youth from receiving the life-saving medical care they require,” Arroz said in a written statement.