Have Pennsylvania lawmakers run out of problems to solve? We have to wager that’s the case since Republican legislators introduced new legislation to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. In April, five Republican state lawmakers, including Philadelphia’s own State Rep. Martina White, introduced a bill to ban transgender students from playing on women’s sports teams.
Pennsylvania is not alone. Similar bills, with titles that are variations on Protect Women’s Sports Act, have been introduced in at least 20 other states and already passed in at least six others. All of these bills exist to bully transgender children and should be dropped.
The wave of anti-trans legislation follows an executive order that Joe Biden signed on his first day in office to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. The order states: “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that discrimination against trans people in the workplace is considered discrimination on the basis of sex under federal law.
Republican state lawmakers have taken it upon themselves to reverse progress — all based on false pretense.
The argument of the Pennsylvania Republican lawmakers is that Biden’s order requires transgender girls to “be permitted to compete on women’s school sports teams.” That’s an exaggeration of what the order does, as it does not address any existing rules governing when transgender athletes can compete — in Pennsylvania, for example, school principals decide the policy.
Lawmakers claim that trans girls and women who’ve gone through puberty would have a biological advantage in sports against cis female athletes and that could, for example, threaten cis athletes’ chances of winning sports scholarships. The Associated Press asked sponsors of these bills to cite such incidents in their states: Not a single one did.
This bullying could place tremendous psychological strain on transgender teens, who are already at higher risk of suicide than their cisgender peers.
Sports are supposed to be about developing character and team spirit. These bills, aimed only to exclude, do the opposite. Pennsylvania is awash in issues large and small — ongoing pandemic, economic recovery, gun violence, and overdose, to name a few — that require legislative action. This is an instance where our lawmakers don’t need to intervene.