LEGISLATURE

Rep. Ford credited with female sports bill passage in Senate

Bill would ban transgender athletes from competing in female sports

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A bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing in female sports at Mississippi schools and universities passed the Mississippi Senate 34-9 with four senators voting present Thursday night.

A “present” vote does not count as a yes or a no vote.

The bill’s author, Sen. Angela Burks Hill, R-Dist. 40, which includes Pearl River and Marion counties, said she introduced the bill in Mississippi after seeing issues arise in other areas of the nation, such as in Connecticut, where lawsuits have been filed after biological females lost titles to transgender athletes.

“I also got calls from coaches in Mississippi who have athletes they believe would want to compete as females,” Hill said.

Senate Bill 2536, also known as the “Mississippi Fairness Act,” would “require any public school, institution of higher learning or institution of higher learning that is a member of the NCAA, NAIA or NJCCA to designate its athletic teams or sports according to biological sex; to provide protection for any school or institution of higher education that maintains separate athletic teams or sports for students of the female sex; to create private cause of action; and for related purposes.”

Hill said she was pleased with the overwhelming support of the bill in the Senate and hopes it will pass in the House. Hill also said she is encouraged because State Rep. Jill Ford, R Dist. 73, Madison, added an amendment banning transgender athletes from competing in female sports to a House bill on pay for student-athletes Thursday night.

Hill thanked Ford and others for their efforts in supporting the measure in social media post after Thursday night’s vote.

“Late tonight, God blessed all our efforts,” Hill’s Facebook post states. “We passed the Fairness Act through the Senate with no questions and 20 plus co-authors. For all the people that helped and spoke out, the female athletes of MS thank you. This is amazing. Got to make it through the house next. Stacey, Becky, Jill, you lit the fire.”

SB 2536 has met opposition from LGBTQ rights groups, including the ACLU of Mississippi, which has questioned the bill on its website under the header “5 Facts about Transgender Athletes and SB 2536.”

In the post, the ACLU of Mississippi states the bill is similar to an effort to spread “fear and misinformation about LGBTQ people with the clear intention of undermining LGBTQ equality” in the buildup to marriage equality a few years back.

“Now we’re seeing another uptick in dangerous, anti-LGBTQ bills in state capitols,” the ACLU states. “The Mississippi senate is considering a bill, SB 2536, aimed at banning transgender women and girls from participating in sports. Bills like SB 2536 are simply the next iteration of their discriminatory efforts.”

The five facts included in the post: Transgender athletes exist; A similar bill passed in Idaho was immediately suspended by a federal court as discriminatory against trans people; Advocates of female sports oppose such legislation; Transgender people do not have an advantage in sports; and The NCAA came out against the Idaho anti-trans athletics bill, calling it harmful to transgender student-athletes and against the NCAA's core values.

Despite the opposition, a recent Mason-Dixon poll showed that 79% of Mississippians support the language on SB 2536, while 17% oppose it and 4% are undecided.

Hill said she has not heard much opposition to the bill, which many people had told her would be controversial.

Hill said she believes females could not compete against transgender athletes and win.

“These are just common-sense bills that are designed to protect female sports,” Hill said. “It is that simple.”

Conservatives reacted with relief that Senate Bill 2536 passed.

“Mississippians are breathing a sigh of relief now that Mississippi’s senators have voted overwhelmingly to protect the rights of girls and women who engage in competitive athletics,” stated Mississippi Center for Public Policy Executive Vice President Lesley Davis.

She continued, “Unlike what is happening in other states, our girls’ and women’s’ records will not be shattered by biological males competing against females. Women deserve to compete on a level playing field. Allowing males to compete in women’s sports destroys fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities.

 

“Mississippi owes a debt of gratitude to those in the Senate who stepped up and supported this legislation. We are especially grateful to Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann for his strong leadership and Senators Rita Potts Parks, John Polk, and Angela Hill. We also thank Speaker Philip Gunn, Rep. Becky Currie, Rep. Stacey Hobgood-Wilkes, and Rep. C. Scott Bounds for signaling their support in the House. Mississippi’s female athletes and future female athletes thank you.”


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