A bill that proposes to bar transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams in Georgia high schools passed the state Senate Higher Education Committee Wednesday and is now set to head to the full Senate.
The bill, called the Save Girls’ Sports Act, passed with a 5-to-3 vote.
Their aim is to prevent students identified as girls at birth from losing out on athletic opportunities and scholarships, said the Senate bill’s sponsor, Sen. Marty Harbin.
“It’s important that we create a level playing ground that allows every young person to fairly compete,” said the Tyrone Republican. “Unfortunately, boys have certain biological advantages when it comes to sports that makes it impossible for competition to be fair if both genders are competing in the same sport.”
It would affect Georgia’s public schools and private schools where teams compete against public schools, as well as colleges in the University System of Georgia.
High school association accepts school decisions
Now, the Georgia High School Association, which oversees intramural sports in the state, accepts the gender of athletes as described by local school districts. NCAA rules state that a transgender woman can play on a women’s team if she has been taking testosterone blockers for at least a year.
To make his point, Harbin played a video featuring Selina Soule, a high school track athlete from Connecticut who said she lost out on a chance to compete after two transgender girls entered a competition.
Questions about how it affects state’s athletes
Democrats on the committee questioned whether the bill was addressing a real problem in Georgia.
“How many girls in Georgia have been denied opportunity because of transgender athletes participating in sports,” asked Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat.
“There’s not a lot of statistics on that,” said Matt Sharp, senior council with Alliance Defending Freedom. “But I go back to the example in the video in Connecticut with Selena Soule –”
“I’m talking about Georgia,” Parent said.
“I understand that,” Sharp said. “But in Connecticut, it was literally just a matter of weeks from a winter indoor track season to a spring outdoor track season that the two biological males began competing on female teams.”
“So there are none in Georgia,” Parent said.
“And so it just takes a short period of time for the women’s sports to be decimated as a result of that,” Sharp said.
“So there’s none in Georgia, is that correct,” Parent asked again.
“We don’t have hard statistics on that, but it just shows that we need to act to do this before girls lose out on opportunities,” Sharp said.
Georgia Baptist Convention spokesman Mike Griffin agreed with Sharp.
“You do pass legislation to prepare you for things that you know are more than likely going to happen,” he said. “When you buy insurance for your house, fire insurance, you don’t buy it after the fire starts. Auto insurance, you buy it before you have a wreck. This would simply ensure some things that we consider to be very important here.”
Research, national picture
Other states that do not restrict transgender girls from playing on girls’ teams have not experienced problems, said Shannon Clawson with Georgia Equality.
“Researchers found that more than 6.8 million high school students live in 16 states that already have fully inclusive transgender sports policies,” she said. “Millions of students are already able to play alongside transgender students, some since 2008, and girls sports participation has not suffered as a result.”
Transgender women and girl athletes have drawn attention across the country since Jan. 20, when President Joe Biden released an order that reads in part “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
The hashtag #BidenErasedWomen trended on Twitter after he released the order, which directs agency heads to review existing policies but does not immediately change any laws regarding transgender athletes.
At least 17 other state legislatures are considering bills similar to Georgia’s, according to the Human Rights Campaign. One such bill passed in Idaho, but it has been blocked by a federal judge while a lawsuit is decided.
If Georgia’s bill is passed into law, it will also face legal challenges, vowed activist Caroline Holko.
“Trans girls are girls and as such should be allowed to participate in girls sports,” she said. “And the title of this bill being Save Girls Sports is offensive and disgusting. I hope that you don’t allow this out of committee. I can guarantee you that it will be litigated, and it will not end with legal discrimination against trans girls being allowed.”
Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity.