Georgia lawmakers pass decision to ban transgender sports at state sports association

In a last-minute move at the end of the 2022 legislative session, Georgia lawmakers dropped the thorny issue of whether transgender athletes should be allowed to play high school sports on the state’s main sports association.

Senators had voted earlier to outright ban transgender boys and girls from playing on school sports teams that matched their gender identity, but House Speaker David Ralston blocked the measure.

Instead, in a move so hasty some lawmakers may not have known what they were doing, the General Assembly said the Georgia High School Association “could” ban transgender girls who play for public schools to compete against other girls.

House Bill 1084 passed the House 98-71, then, after the clock passed the usual hour of adjournment at midnight, it passed the Senate 32-21.

Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge, compared the decision to how the NCAA regulates transgender participation in college sports.

“We’re going to let them make those decisions,” Ralston told reporters after lawmakers adjourned for the year. “And we have an oversight committee on that. But that’s really where those decisions have to be made.”

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Democrats reacted angrily to the legislation, pushed through in the final minutes of the session without a full explanation.

“This bill targets the most vulnerable Georgians, transgender youth,” said Rep. Matthew Wilson, an openly gay Brookhaven Democrat who is running for insurance commissioner. “It not only puts us on the wrong side of history and morality, but on the wrong side of litigation.”

The measure was included in House Bill 1084, which also prohibits the teaching of “dividing concepts” about race and was amended to establish an outside oversight committee on the Georgia High School Association. The association has long been plagued by complaints about how it divides its member schools by geography and size, as well as other issues.

The bill does not explicitly give the association the power to ban competition for transgender girls who play in private schools. Several private schools are also members of the association.

“In the final minutes of Sine Die, Republicans in Georgia settled for using child-discriminatory language in an already terrible bill, HB 1084. Targeting trans kids, banning kids from sports, and attacking teachers at the same time. Appalling,” House Minority Leader James Beverly told FOX 5 in a statement.

Ralston would get one of the oversight committee appointments. The Speaker of the House said he does not want transgender youth to be sidelined.

“I’m going to tell them I don’t want them targeted, and I hope that’s not the case,” Ralston said. “I think that’s a decision for GHSA to make in consultation with member schools.”

The compromise came after Republican Gov. Brian Kemp passed a transgender ban, even urging lawmakers to spend an hour before the session closed.

At least 10 Republican-run states have banned transgender women or girls from playing sports. Some other GOP-led states are also considering such bans.

Ban supporters say transgender girls have an unfair advantage because they were born as stronger men and warn those born as girls will be denied team or podium spots if they play against transgender girls.

Similar measures never reached floor votes in the House or Senate last year. It’s one of many conservative education measures pushed by Republicans in an election year, including enumerating parents’ rights and allowing parents to challenge material they find objectionable.

Democrats have warned that transgender children are already vulnerable to suicide and that excluding them could only lead to more children harming themselves.

“To do something like this, which takes away an extra sense of belonging from children who are at higher risk, is something that deserves at least a debate on the floor,” said Rep. Rebecca Mitchell, a Democrat from Snellville. She said she wanted transgender children to understand that “some of us fight for them and value them and we want them alive and included more than anything.”

Opponents warn the move could violate Title IX of the federal Education Act prohibiting sex discrimination, an executive order signed by Democratic President Joe Biden that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere. , as well as decisions of the United States Supreme Court and the 11th United States Circuit Court of Appeals.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report

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