Transgender sports ban nears finish line in North Carolina legislature

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A bill that would bar transgender girls from playing on middle school, high school and varsity sports teams that match their gender identity is nearing the finish line in North Carolina as the Republican-controlled state legislature scrambles to Nationwide completed a record year for legislation targeting transgender residents.

The North Carolina bill, which passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, needs only one more committee to pass for final approval by a full Senate vote.House of Representatives and senate A different version had passed before legislative leaders opted to proceed with the House bill, which would also apply to college students.

A previous vote in the Senate indicated that legislative approval could be swift. It could clear the Republican-led Legislature as early as next week.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has little power to stop it, as Republicans have veto-free majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives for the first time since 2018. The victory earlier this year gave Republicans a clear path to consider some of the LGBTQ+ restrictions passed in other states, but have not previously gained traction in North Carolina.

“It’s not telling anybody they can’t play,” said Vicky Sawyer, a Republican Senator and major sponsor of Iridelle County. “It just goes to show people that women’s sport is for women.”

Other restrictions on transgender North Carolinians could still become law in final weeks of session, including gender-affirming surgery ban Target transgender minors and require teachers to alert parents when a child requests a different name or pronoun in school.

Local LGBTQ+ rights advocates said they felt demoralized by the legislature’s relentless attacks that replicated the conservative playbook used in other states rather than addressing the real needs of North Carolina residents. At least 20 other states prohibit transgender athletes from participating in school sports that match their gender identity.

But bill sponsors have repeatedly pointed to volleyball injuries in Cherokee County as justification for their claim that transgender participation is inherently dangerous to cisgender girls in the state. They promoted the bill as a necessary precaution to protect the safety and well-being of female athletes.

The bill would designate sports based on biological sex as determined “by reproductive biology and genetics at birth.” The restrictions will apply to state universities and community colleges, as well as all public and some private middle and high schools. They do not apply to intramural sports.

Students also have the right to sue if they have been harmed by a transgender student who violated the restrictions.

Tammy Fitzgerald, executive director of the socially conservative North Carolina Values ​​Coalition, said the committee’s vote Wednesday brought the state closer to ensuring “a level playing field for all female student-athletes.”

But Mecklenburg County Democratic Senator Natasha Marcus said the bill targeted transgender girls “in a despicable and unfair way.” She criticized Republican senators for referring to transgender women as “biologically male,” dismissing it as “offensive.”

A previous version of the bill also banned girls from playing on the men’s team, but the committee on Wednesday removed that provision, narrowing the restriction to boys playing on the women’s team. Bill sponsors still haven’t clearly explained how the ban will be enforced.

Kyle Warren-Love, a transgender man from Prospect Hill, said the bill was “the exact opposite” of its stated goal of making sports safer because it “just creates a situation where transgender children don’t feel safe”.

“You are faced with a choice,” he told senators at a committee meeting on Wednesday. “The choice is to show love to your neighbor, like the love I’ve felt from mine, or create a government that stops children – children – from living full lives just to be who they are and to live. Live like me.”

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Hannah Schoenbaum is a member of the Associated Press/US State House News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service project that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.

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