Tennessee Senate passes bill banning transgender high school athletes from playing sports

Liz Roscher
·3 min read

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Trans pride flags flutter in the wind at a gathering to celebrate  International Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, 2017 at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles, California. 
International Transgender Day of Visibility is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide. / AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck        (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Tennessee is the latest state to pass a bill banning transgender athletes from participating in middle or high school sports that matches their gender identity. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

The Tennessee Senate passed a controversial bill on Monday night that bans transgender middle and high school students from playing sports based on their gender identity.

The bill passed 27-6 on a party-line vote. The House has not yet scheduled a final vote on the bill.

A summary of Senate Bill 228, via WJHL, says it “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.” There is no exception for any transgender athletes who are receiving gender-affirming care.

Supporters of the bill say that it promotes fairness, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said that transgender athletes will "destroy women's sports." However, LGBTQ+ advocates are against the bill, arguing that it's discriminatory and demonstrates a misunderstanding of both science and the transgender experience.

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There is currently no evidence that any transgender athletes are participating in middle or high school sports anywhere in the state. That hasn't stopped bill advocates from assuming, without evidence, that it will be a "problem" in the future and insisting that the bill solves a future problem that just hasn't appeared yet.

"To say it's not a problem in Tennessee may be true, but it will be a problem in Tennessee probably sooner than we think," said Sen. Kerry Roberts via the Tennessean.

According to the Tennessean, 21 states have introduced anti-trans athlete bills, and those bills have passed at least one chamber in six states.

Wisconsin introduces bill to ban transgender athletes

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin introduced a similar bill Tuesday which would ban transgender athletes from participating in women's sports, according to the Associated Press.

The ban, if implemented, would apply to athletes in kindergarten through college. The proposal is being supported by Olympic gold medalist Bonnie Blair Cruikshank, who won five gold medals for speed skating.

If the Republican-controlled Legislature passes the proposal, it's believed Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers — who is a Democrat — will veto it.

Evers did not discuss policy Tuesday, but tweeted support for transgender kids and students, saying "you are welcome, you are wanted, and you belong."

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