Arkansas becomes second state to pass bill limiting transgender athletes this year

Ryan Young
·3 min read
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Like Mississippi earlier this month, Arkansas' Governor signed a bill on Thursday banning transgender athletes from competing in women's and girls sports. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Arkansas became the second state this month to pass a law banning transgender women and girls from competing in school sports that match their gender identity on Thursday.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the bill — which was introduced last month — into law on Thursday, and said he had both “studied the law” and heard from “hundreds” of Arkansas residents about the issue.

“I signed the law as a fan of women’s sports from basketball to soccer and including many others in which women compete successfully,” Hutchinson said in a statement, via the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition.”

Arkansas is the second state to pass similar law this year

Arkansas is now the second state to officially pass such a law this year. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, signed their bill on March 11. It is set to become law on July 1 if it does not face a legal challenge.

Idaho came closest last year with its “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which passed into law but was blocked by a federal judge after a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU. That bill allowed for transgender girls and women to actually have their genitals checked if their biological sex is changed, though that law did not apply to transgender boys or men.

At least 20 states have had lawmakers push for similar laws this year, including Tennessee, Missouri and South Dakota. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, called such a bill necessary otherwise transgender athletes would “destroy women’s sports.”

Utah lawmakers have debated such a bill, though Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and team president Jim Olson met with lawmakers and warned them that the bill’s impact on transgender children and the backlash that would surely follow could end up costing the team the 2023 NBA All-Star Game — something the league did with North Carolina’s bathroom bill in 2016.

If Arkansas’ law is not blocked by a lawsuit or a federal judge, it would be the first state to see such a law actually implemented — something that is currently set to start this summer.

Lawmakers have struggled to cite actual issues

Though these bills are becoming more and more popular across the country, most lawmakers haven’t been able to cite an actual situation where transgender participation in youth sports has caused an issue.

The Associated Press reached out to two dozen state lawmakers in these states and conservative groups backing these pushes asking for specific instances, though almost nobody could provide a concrete example to back up their concerns.

A South Carolina lawmaker told the Associated Press that she didn’t know of a single transgender athlete competing in the state, and Tennessee house speaker Cameron Sexton claimed their bill was “proactive” despite not knowing of any transgender athletes in middle or high school sports.

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