House Republicans pass anti-trans sports bill

House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., speaks as women in the GOP hold an event before the vote to prohibit transgender women and girls from playing on sports teams, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 20, 2023.
House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., speaks as women in the GOP hold an event before the vote to prohibit transgender women and girls from playing on sports teams, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 20, 2023.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives on April 20 voted to approve legislation banning transgender girls and some non-binary individuals from girls and women’s sports, representing the latest elevation of anti-trans legislation to the highest political arena in the United States. The bill, though, is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Joe Biden has vowed to veto it if it reaches his desk.

The so-called Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023, or H.R. 734, bars trans girls and women from playing on sports in accordance with their gender identity by amending Title IX to stipulate that “sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.” The legislative effort is being led by Republican Greg Steube, who represents Florida’s west coast region of Sarasota and Charlotte Counties. Lawmakers voted along party lines to approve the bill 219-203.

“For students nationwide, participating in sports and being part of a team is an important part of growing up, staying engaged in school, and learning leadership and life skills,” the Biden administration said in a written statemnet. “H.R. 734 would deny access to sports for many families by establishing an absolute ban on transgender students — even those as young as elementary schoolers — playing on a team consistent with their gender identity. Schools, coaches, and athletic associations around the country are already working with families to develop participation rules that are fair and that take into account particular sports, grade levels, and levels of competition. As a national ban that does not account for competitiveness or grade level, H.R. 734 targets people for who they are and therefore is discriminatory.”

LGBTQ lawmakers aggressively criticized the bill as it came before the House of Representatives on April 20. Among many concerns, congressmembers particularly took issue with vague language that they say could open the door for any girl to be forced to take invasive medical exams and answer personal questions about their bodies. The bill only allows trans women and non-binary people assigned male at birth to “train or practice” with women or girls sports “so long as no female is deprived of a roster spot on a team or sport, opportunity to participate in a practice or competition, scholarship, admission to an educational institution, or any other benefit that accompanies participating in the athletic program or activity.”

Ritchie Torres, an out gay member of Congress who represents the Bronx, defended trans inclusion in sports and denounced his GOP colleagues.

“It’s become painfully obvious that extreme MAGA Republicans have no interest in addressing the very real problems facing Americans every day, like fighting inflation, protecting communities from gun violence, and making healthcare more affordable and accessible,” Torres said in a written statement. “Instead, they’re singularly obsessed with continuing this hateful and coordinate assault on LGBTQI+ kids that we’re seeing play out across the country through countless pieces of anti-trans, discriminatory legislation. But make no mistake. I will not fall for this lie of ‘protecting women’ as an excuse for a bill that will further traumatize trans youth. There are plenty of states, schools, and sports associations at all levels that for decades have allowed transgender athletes to compete fairly and consistently with their gender identity with no issues. We should follow their lead, stop putting politics over participation, and let the kids play.”

Out gay Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island described the bill’s invasive genital inspections provision as “creepy” and said the federal government shouldn’t be interfering with sports programs at educational institutions.

“No group of kids should be banned from school sports, period,” Cicilline said on the House floor. “We all know what school sports are about — its about teamwork, determination, physical well-being… the federal government doesn’t belong in our classrooms, in our locker rooms of these kids, or between these children and their parents.”

Out Congressmember Becca Balint of Vermont’s at-large district denounced the bill as “an attack on our kids” that “does nothing to protect girls.”

“Trans kids and their families are being targeted and harassed for political gain,” Balint said. “Is this the nation we want to live in?”