Transgender athletes whose sex assigned at birth was male would be barred from competing on girls’ or women’s sports teams at federally supported schools and colleges under legislation pushed through by U.S. House Republicans on Thursday.
The bill, entitled the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, was approved by a 219-203 party-line vote. It is unlikely to move further along because the Democratic majority in the Senate will not support it and the White House said President Joe Biden would veto it.
Specifically, the bill provides that it is a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for federally funded education programs or activities to operate, sponsor, or facilitate athletic programs or activities that allow individuals of the male sex to participate in programs or activities that are designated for women or girls. (Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs or activities, including in public elementary and secondary schools and in colleges and universities.) Under the bill, sex is based on an individual’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.
The bill does not prohibit male individuals from training or practicing with programs or activities for women or girls as long as such training or practice does not deprive any female of corresponding opportunities or benefits.
Supporters said the legislation, which would put violators at risk of losing taxpayer dollars, is necessary to ensure competitive fairness. They framed the vote as supporting female athletes disadvantaged by having to compete against those whose gender identity does not match their sex assigned at birth. Opponents criticized the bill as ostracizing an already vulnerable group for political gain.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), the bill’s sponsors, highlighted the case of Emma Weyant, a resident of his district and a 2020 member of the U.S. Olympic swimming team who finished second in the NCAA women’s 500-yard freestyle championship last year. She was defeated by Penn’s Lia Thomas, who had competed for three years on the Quaker men’s swimming team before joining the women’s team.
“The integrity of women’s sports must be protected,” Steube said.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said it was a “great day for America, a great day for girls and women and for fairness in sports.” Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fla.) said that every time a male athlete takes a lane in the pool or at the starting line, a female athlete loses the opportunity to compete.
Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation voted 9-7-1 against the House bill along party lines. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-16) did not cast a vote.
Rep. Guy Reschenthal (R-14) tweeted that, “House Republicans just passed the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, a bill that restores integrity and fairness in women’s sports. Female athletes deserve a level playing field.”
“Today, yet again, I was obliged to vote on a morally & intellectually bankrupt piece of legislation,” tweeted Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-06). “I stand with our transgender community & encourage my colleagues across the aisle to get serious about legislating rather than attacking a vulnerable group of people in our society.”
“The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023 puts female athletes first,” tweeted Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-15). “Women & girls deserve to compete on a level playing field & have their privacy protected. I was proud to support today’s vote and reaffirm my continued commitment to America’s female athletes.”
Rep. Madeleine Dean (R-05) spoke on the floor over a gavel, saying “I trust women. I trust medical professionals. House Republicans don’t want to hear it. They can gavel me out as many times as they want — I will never stop defending the rights of women and girls.”
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned the vote and said that, so far this year, more than 450 bills attacking the rights of transgender people have been introduced in state legislatures.
“Why are Republicans in Congress spending their time bullying children? This is not what voters elected them to do,” said Deirdre Schifeling, the ACLU’s national political director.
Pennsylvania Congressional Member Votes
Fitzpatrick, Joyce, Meuser, Perry, Reschenthaler, Smucker, Thompson
Boyle, Cartwright, Dean, Deluzio, Evans, Houlahan, Lee, Scanlon, Wild
Not Voting (1)