Tennessee Senate passes controversial transgender athlete bill


House version awaiting third and final vote

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Tennessee Senate passed a bill Monday to prohibit transgender middle and high school athletes from participating in sports based on their gender identity.

In a 27–6 party-line vote, the Republican-dominated chamber advanced Senate Bill 228 by Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald).

The bill “requires, for the purposes of participation in a middle school or high school interscholastic athletic activity or event, that a student’s gender be determined by the student’s sex at the time of the student’s birth, as indicated on the student’s original birth certificate,” according to a summary of the bill.

If a student’s birth certificate doesn’t appear to be original or doesn’t indicate the student’s sex at birth, the student would have to provide “other evidence” indicating their sex at birth.

Supporters say the bill is necessary to protect fairness in competition. Opponents say the measure is discriminatory and a solution in search of a problem.

“Attempting to embed discrimination against transgender girls into state law, Tennessee senators voted today to ban transgender girls from participating in school sports. This hateful and unconstitutional bill is unnecessary — the bill sponsors have admitted that they do not know of a single instance of a Tennessee student facing any harm from a transgender athlete playing sports. Protecting women’s sports is important, but transgender girls do not threaten them. The vast majority of transgender students are not elite athletes. They just want to play sports for fun, with friends and classmates, to feel a sense of community and camaraderie, and to learn to respect and work together with coaches and teammates. We should not deny these life-changing opportunities to youth just because they are transgender. Should any transgender student be excluded because of this legislation, we are prepared to fight this bill in court.”

Statement by Hedy Weinberg, ACLU of Tennessee executive director

The House version of the bill is awaiting scheduling for a third and final vote by the full chamber.

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