A move to exclude transgender girls from participating in girls’ scholastic athletics passed through the Pennsylvania House Education Committee today by a 15-9 vote.
The bill – HB 972 – also known as the “Protect Women’s Sports Act – was first introduced by state Rep. Barbara Gleim (R-Cumberland) last spring. Gleim was joined on the bill by Reps. Martina White (R-Philadelphia), Dawn Keefer (R-York), Valerie Gaydos (R-Allegheny) and Stephanie Borowicz (R-Clinton/Centre).
HB 972 would restrict participants to male or female teams based on their reproductive organs, biology, or genetics at birth. It now goes forward for consideration by the full PA house, controlled by the GOP majority.
“We maintain that women’s own competitive category in athletics, guaranteed under federal Title IX law, needs to be preserved because women lose out on having a fair playing field when forced to compete against biological men,” said Gleim in a press release.
“The reality is that identities don’t play sports, bodies do. And the male body has strength, speed and endurance abilities that women’s bodies simply do not. Just look at Lia Thomas, a biological male who competed on the (University of Pennsylvania) men’s swim team for three years before switching to the women’s team and smashing women’s records. This bill is needed to ensure everyone, biological men and women, can compete fairly.”
Rep. Mark Longietti (D-Mercer), the committee’s ranking Democrat, posited whether the decision should be left to governing bodies such as the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) or the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Rep. MaryLouise Isaacson (D-Philadelphia) agreed with Longietti, noting “There are governing bodies over high school and collegiate sports. We are not one of them.”
Currently, the NCAA policy calls for transgender participation for each sport to be determined by the policy for the national governing body of that sport, subject to ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports to the Board of Governors. If there is no NGB policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy would be followed. If there is no international federation policy, previously established IOC policy criteria would be followed.
Under the Pennsylvania bill, an athletic team or sport designated for females, women or girls may not be open to students of the male sex. In addition, a student deprived of an athletic opportunity or who suffers direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of this act by a college or public school would be able to bring a cause of action for injunctive relief, psychological and physical damage, and the costs involved in filing a lawsuit against the college or high school.
“In yet another attempt to inflict harm on one of PA’s most vulnerable communities, House Republicans are moving a bill to ban transgender women from playing women’s school sports in Pennsylvania,” said state Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia), co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Caucus, in a statement. “This is a solution in search of a problem, and with the number of trans women and girls who play sports actually being extremely small, we must recognize this for what it is — an inflammatory move meant to spark a culture war, not a meaningful policy solution for an issue impacting working Pennsylvanians.
“Let’s be clear, this legislation is about preserving fairness and protecting women,” said Gaydos. “The PIAA currently has separate divisions based on age, school sizes and classification.”
“On Jan. 23, 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that says transgendered athletes must be allowed to compete against women – a protected category. This executive order reverses decades of progress for women’s sports. House Bill 972 restores the intent of federal Title IX established in 1972 for girls to compete on a level playing field in athletics.”
“This bill is an ignorant attempt to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” said state Sen. Katie Muth (D-Berks), co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Caucus. “If the majority’s intent is to give women a level playing field, we should address the inequities in funding, resources, media coverage and pay in women’s sports.”