States consider limiting participation in girls sports to just girls

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Several state legislatures are considering requirements that student-athletes at public schools only participate in sports according to their biological sex, not according to their gender identity.


North Dakota's House of Representatives last week passed a bill that would prohibit public schools from allowing a minor to participate in an exclusively girls or boys sports activity opposite their biological sex. According to the Bismarck Tribune, the bill would allow girls to participate in school sports for boys where girls' teams do not exist. 


State Rep. Kathy Skroch, a proponent of the bill, said it "upholds 50 years of progress and protecting women against discrimination and advocates for the preservation of the biological base standards for female sports competition," according to the Bismarck Tribune.


The ACLU of North Dakota, which opposes the bill, said in a press release that the bill is "an attempt to codify discrimination against transgender youth." 


Also last week, Mississippi's Senate approved similar legislation. If signed into law, the bills would likely face legal challenges, as a federal judge blocked an Idaho bill from going into effect last year. 


The state bills come after former Democratic presidential candidate and congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) introduced the Protect Women's Sports Act in the U.S. House last year. 


In a December statement, then-Rep. Gabbard said that federal civil rights law "is being weakened by some states," which she blamed for "creating uncertainty, undue hardship and lost opportunities for female athletes." 


The Connecticut state high school athletic association in 2017 allowed students to participate in single-sex sports according to their gender identity. Two male athletes identifying as transgender females subsequently participated in female high school track events, and won 15 state championship titles.


Several Connecticut high school female track athletes sued, alleging they were unlawfully discriminated against by the state's policy. 

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"Our legislation protects Title IX's original intent which was based on the general biological distinction between men and women athletes based on sex," Gabbard said at the time her bill was introduced. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is federal civil rights law, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education.


 "It is critical that the legacy of Title IX continues to ensure women and girls in sports have the opportunity to compete and excel on a level playing field," Gabbard stated. Her bill was not brought up for a vote after it was introduced in the last Congress. 


President Joe Biden last month signed an executive order to extend federal protections against sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Legal experts warned that his order was sweeping in its scope, and would force women to share facilities--such as bathrooms, homeless shelters, and locker rooms--with males identifying as transgender females. 


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In a Feb. 3 confirmation hearing, President Biden's nominee for Education Secretary said that high school male athletes identifying as transgender females should be allowed to participate in girls' sports. 


The nominee, Miguel Cardona, told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee that it "is the legal responsibility of schools to provide opportunities for students to participate in activities, and this includes students who are transgender."