Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced Friday that he’d signed a law prohibiting transgender children from participating in middle and high school sports under their gender identity, saying the legislation would “ensure fair competition.”
Activists have already vowed to sue the state over the law, which opponents have called discriminatory and harmful — even potentially deadly — to transgender children.
Tennessee is the third state to pass a law targeting transgender athletes in March alone. Arkansas on Thursday banned transgender athletes from competing in girls’ sports, and Mississippi passed a similar prohibition earlier this month.
Under Tennessee’s ban, student athletes would be required to show proof of what sex they were designated at birth in order to participate in middle and high school sports. In a statement posted to Twitter, Lee said he “signed the bill to preserve women’s athletics.”
“This legislation responds to damaging federal policies that stand in opposition to the years of progress made under Title IX and I commend members of the General Assembly for their bipartisan work,” he added.
Opponents, however, have argued that the law is a violation of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools that receive federal money.
Medical experts and researchers have also noted the lack of evidence supporting the necessity of such a ban.
“Attempts to force transgender girls to play on the boys’ teams are unconscionable attacks on already marginalized transgender children, and they don’t address a real problem,” Jack Turban, a child psychiatry fellow at Stanford University, wrote for Scientific American earlier this month. “They’re unscientific, and they would cause serious mental health damage to both cisgender and transgender youth.”
Tennessee’s new ban is among a spate of anti-transgender laws being considered in at least 20 states across the nation. A similar bill banning transgender athletes from girls’ sports appears to be close to passage in South Dakota.
In Arkansas, another anti-LGBTQ bill is sitting on Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk. It would allow doctors to refuse to treat someone for moral or religion reasons.
In Alabama, the state Senate voted earlier this month to approve a bill that would bar transgender youth from seeking treatment with puberty blockers, hormone treatment or surgery.
Parents of transgender children have said such a law would put their kids’ lives and welfare at risk.
“This bill masquerades under a save the children umbrella, but the truth is that children who are not gender-conforming, this won’t save them — this is going to endanger them,” Gerry Paige Smith, the parent of a transgender son, told The Associated Press.
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