TN Legislators Advance Bill Targeting Transgender Athletes

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A Tennessee House subcommittee advanced a bill Tuesday, May 27th, that aims to exclude school-aged transgender athletes from participating on teams matching their chosen gender.


The legislation, HB 1572, is sponsored by Rep. Brice Griffey (R-Paris). Griffey said the bill “is an attempt to address an issue where we have transgender athletes wanting to compete in female-primary sports, which gives them an unfair advantage.”


A summary of the bill reads in part: “As introduced, requires elementary and secondary schools that receive public funding to ensure that student athletes participate in school-sanctioned sports based on the student's biological sex as indicated on certificate issued at time of birth.”


Griffey said allowing transgender athletes to compete against the gender they identify as is unfair, pointing to puberty and testosterone, which he says “makes all the difference in the world. It’s just a fact of life.


“I have two daughters that are both school athletes and I would certainly be upset and I know a lot of other people who may have daughters who would be upset if a male athlete that considers themselves female and transgender has an unfair advantage.”


When asked by Rep. Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville) if there had been instances of this happening in Tennessee, Griffey said he is “not aware that we have had specific instances in Tennessee yet. This is a prospective bill so that we don’t run into this problem in the future.”

Griffey’s bill would establish a civil penalty for schools that don’t comply with the law of up to $10,000. Schools would also immediately lose eligibility for local and state funds of any type. Additionally, any school administrator or local official who violates the law’s provisions would be required to leave their position for five years.


A nearly identical bill, HB 1689, which has already passed through this subcommittee, is also set to go before the full education committee for consideration Thursday.


“I don’t care how we get the job done,” Griffey said of the competing bill. “It just needs to be done.”


Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka), who is sponsoring that bill, says it is meant to “protect the safety-competitive balance and the opportunity for scholarships of our female athletes in middle school all the way to high school.”


Cepicky’s bill goes further and would mandate that schools require athletes to “verify that the student is of the respective sex before the student may participate.” The bill would require students to present birth certificates for verification and when not available students would have to provide results of a genetic or DNA test done by a healthcare practitioner.


Both bills could cause the state to lose $623.4 million dollars in federal education funds, as prohibiting students from participating who do not have a birth certificate may be a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Title IX “prohibits a person, on the basis of sex, from being excluded from participation in, to be denied the benefits of, be treated differently from another person, or otherwise discriminated against in any interscholastic, intercollegiate, club, or intramural athletics.”


The bills will be considered in the House Education Committee, Thursday, May 28th at 5 p.m.


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