On Tuesday, Senate lawmakers approved a bill prohibiting biological males from competing in sports designated for biological females at North Carolina schools and universities. It will now seek the House’s concurrence before advancing to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.
House Bill 574, entitled the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, passed the Senate on a 31-17 vote. All present Republicans voted in favor of the measure along with Democratic Sen. Val Applewhite, D-Cumberland. All other Senate Democrats opposed the bill.
H.B. 574 originated in the House, passing the chamber 73-39 in April. All primary co-sponsors of the bill are GOP House representatives: Jennifer Balkcom, R-Henderson; Karl Gillespie, R-Cherokee; Erin Parė, R-Wake; and Kristin Baker, R-Cabarrus.
Presenting the legislation in the Senate, Sen. Kevin Corbin, R-Cherokee, said it was a “common-sense bill” not targeting transgender individuals.
“It’s not against anybody…it simply prevents biological males from playing girls’ sports, end of story,” said Corbin.
H.B. 574 bans biological males and females from participating in single-sex competitive sports designated for the opposite sex at N.C. public schools, from middle school to universities. The bill also determines a student athlete’s gender classification based on their sex at birth rather than their gender identity.
Private schools competing against public schools must abide by the new standards.
However, some exceptions are made for female athletes as women can compete in sports designated for males as long as there is “no comparable female team and the sport is not wrestling.”
Other Republican-dominated state legislatures have undertaken similar measures in recent years, motivated by controversy surrounding transgender females competing in women’s sports.
The controversy reached a fever pitch after Lia Thomas, a transgender female who attended the University of Pennsylvania, won a 2022 NCAA National Championship in the women’s 500-yard freestyle swimming event. Thomas had earlier competed on the university’s men’s swim team before transitioning in 2020.
Thomas’ success against biologically female athletes inspired an outcry from other athletes, parents of student athletes, and conservative activists who claimed that transgender women, biological males, hold a competitive and physical advantage over biologically female athletes.
Female Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines placed second to Thomas in the national championship and spoke to North Carolina lawmakers this spring in support of the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. Payton McNabb of Cherokee County also testified about her experience in a Hiwassee High School volleyball game where she was critically injured by a transgender athlete.
Nearly 30 other states have passed or enacted legislation prohibiting transgender females from competing in women’s sports. Prominent Republicans, such as presidential candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have publicly championed such measures.
However, courts have prevented some states, such as Idaho, from enacting the bans after individuals issued lawsuits challenging them, claiming they violate the U.S. Constitution.
Figures in the world of competitive sports have spoken in favor of such bans. Former UNC-Chapel Hill women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell wrote an op-ed in Carolina Journal supporting H.B. 574, stating, “competitive sport is one of the few places in society where sex differences matter.”
However, some Democrats in the General Assembly have spoken out against the bill. Sen. Lisa Grafstein, D-Wake, said on Tuesday that the measure hurt transgender Americans.
“Bills that target the LGBTQ community, whether intentionally targeting people or not…are meant to erase [LGBT people],” said Grafstein.
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, opposed the bill on the grounds it is “unworkable” and unnecessary.
“It’s a solution in search of a problem. Out of the 180,000 high school athletes, exactly two transgender female athletes applied to play sports in our state,” said Chaudhuri.
Companion legislation to H.B.574, Senate Bill 631, passed the Senate in April on a 29-18 partisan vote. However, Rep. Timothy Reeder, R-Pitt, introduced a committee substitute for S.B.631 on Tuesday, with provisions banning public health facilities from performing gender-transitioning operations on minors, including issuing puberty blockers. The amendment also prohibited state funds from funding such procedures. The substitute measure passed the House Health Committee.
H.B. 574 will now go back to the House to seek concurrence from the chamber after the Senate-made changes to the bill’s original form, where it is expected to pass. Gov. Cooper is widely expected to veto the legislation if it appears on his desk. However, GOP legislators may utilize their veto-proof majority in both chambers to pass the measure into law.
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