Missouri House and Senate GOP push to ban transgender athletes

On Thursday, Republican lawmakers in the state of Missouri pushed to restrict the participation of transgender children in sports, with the House passing a ban and the Senate debating a bill to remove funding from schools that allow girls transgenders to play with other girls.

House members voted 95 to 46 on mostly partisan lines to demand that public school transgender students play on teams that match the “biological sex” listed on their birth certificates.

No lawmakers spoke in favor of the bill during Thursday’s debate. Republican supporters have launched a ban on transgender girls in women’s sports out of concern for fairness, arguing that boys have a physical advantage over girls.

The House also voted 96-47 on Thursday to pass legislation that would allow local school districts to call local elections on whether to ban transgender girls from women’s sports teams.

A handful of Republicans voted against both House bills, which are now heading to the GOP-led Senate for debate. Lawmakers face the May 13 deadline to pass legislation.

Meanwhile, senators debated a ban on transgender girls and women playing on women’s college sports teams. Under the bill, schools would risk losing state funding if transgender girls and women played on teams with other girls and women.

“Everyone has the opportunity to participate in competitive sports,” Republican Senator Mike Moon said. “What we need to do is protect young girls and women from unfair competition, and that’s what this bill does.”

Debate over the legislation ended after Democrats sought a quorum check and too few lawmakers returned to the Senate, prompting the leader to end the session for the day.

The role of transgender athletes in sports is gaining traction as a GOP talking point this election year. Political observers say it’s a classic strategy to find a “corner problem” that motivates a political base.

Democratic Rep. Ian Mackey, who is gay, said Thursday it “hurts like nothing else I’ve ever experienced in this job” to see some of his friends in the Legislature vote in favor of the proposals, which he personally described as offensive.

“There is no gray area on how to treat human beings,” Mackey said. “There is no gray area when it comes to equality.”

Current Missouri public high school athletic rules already prohibit transgender girls from competing on all-girls teams unless they are on hormone therapy. Transgender boys can play on boys’ teams without undergoing treatment.

Over the past decade, the Missouri State High School Activities Association has allowed three transgender students to play on boys’ teams and two transgender girls to play on girls’ teams.

“It’s time for politicians to stop bullying kids based on who they are and start focusing on solving real issues that affect families,” said Katy Erker-Lynch, the group’s executive director. Missouri LGBTQ Advocacy PROMO, in an email. “These bills are a solution in search of a problem.”

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This story has been corrected to restore a dropped word in Rep. Ian Mackey’s comments, who said “There is no gray area on how to treat human beings”, not “There is a gray area gray on how to treat human beings”.

Naomi C. Amerson