High-profile female athletes and women’s sports advocates are hoping to enact federal legislation that would protect women and girls competitive sports by limiting the impact of President Joe Biden’s executive order mandating the inclusion of transgender athletes in sports.
Biden’s sweeping executive order, dubbed the Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation Act, provides across the board transgender rights.
The group is planning to propose federal legislation to codify protections for girl and women athletes from competing against biological men in sports while creating a way for transgender competition.
USA Today reported on the development:
While the controversy over transgender girls and women in sports is not new, the issue bubbled to the surface in the United States a few years ago when two transgender girls were allowed to compete in state track and field meets in Connecticut, winning a combined 15 girls’ state indoor and outdoor championship races from 2017-19 and highlighting the piecemeal nature of state laws governing the issue.
The women’s sports leaders, including tennis legend Martina Navratilova, several Olympic gold medalists and five former presidents of the Women’s Sports Foundation, is asking Congress and the Biden administration to limit the participation of transgender girls and women who “have experienced all or part of male puberty (which is the scientific justification for separate sex sport),” while accommodating and honoring their sports participation in other ways. Options could include separate heats, additional events or divisions and/or the handicapping of results.
“We fully support the Biden executive order, ending LGBT discrimination throughout society, including employment, banking, family law, and public accommodations,” Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a Title IX attorney and one of the leaders of the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, told USA TODAY Sports in an exclusive interview.
“Competitive sports, however, are akin to pregnancy and medical testing; these areas require a science-based approach to trans inclusion. Our aim has been on protecting the girls’ and women’s competitive categories while crafting accommodations for trans athletes into sport wherever possible.
“While the details of President Biden’s executive order remain fuzzy, asking women — no, requiring them — to give up their hard-won rights to compete and be recognized in elite sport, with equal opportunities, scholarships, prize money, publicity, honor, and respect, does the cause of transgender inclusion no favors,” Hogshead-Makar said. “It engenders justifiable resentment, setting back the cause of equality throughout society. And either extreme position – full inclusion or full exclusion in sport – will make life much harder for transgender people. We must make sport a welcoming place for all.
“According to the working group, 10 states require males and females to participate in high school sports according to their birth sex, thereby prohibiting participation in girls’ sports by transgender girls, whether or not they have begun male puberty or have had hormone therapy,” USA Today reported. “Seventeen states and the District of Columbia require the inclusion of trans girls in girls’ sports without regard to the extent to which they may retain the male-linked physical traits that otherwise justify excluding males from female sports on competitive fairness and safety grounds.
In addition, 17 states have rules in place similar to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) protocol which allows transgender girls to compete after certain hormone treatment over a specific period of time.
“There have been so many different approaches to this issue, from all-inclusion no matter what to all-exclusion no matter what,” Navratilova said in a phone interview Monday morning, according to USA Today. “We just wanted to find a better way of moving forward. We know there’s going to be somebody that’s not happy but we’re trying to make it as fair as possible. Now with transgender athletes, the rules are not clear. We need some clarity, we need some unity. We want to stay civil in the conversation and move the ball forward.”
“We’re interested in starting a dialogue and creating policies where we can find a solution,” Olympic gold medalist and Title IX advocate Donna de Varona, said in the USA Today report. “No one else is doing this. No one else is focusing on a solution. The extreme positions are keeping us from focusing on a fair, science-based solution. All of us have benefited from sport and we’re just trying to help.”
Other members of the group include Donna Lopiano, the former longtime CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation; Doriane Coleman, professor of law and co-director of the Center for Sports Law & Policy at Duke Law School; and Tracy Sundlun, an Olympic track and field coach and founding board member of the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation.
The group also has the support of Renee Richards, tennis standout and broadcaster Pam Shriver, Olympic track and field gold medalists Benita Fitzgerald Mosley and Sanya Richards-Ross, long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, Olympic diving gold medalist Micki King and pioneering race car driver Lyn St. James. Male supporters include Olympic standouts Edwin Moses, Greg Louganis, and Willie Banks.
“We understand that this is a complicated issue and that one conversation won’t do it,” Hogshead-Makar said. “Thus, proposing federal legislation to protect biological females and create a women’s sports environment that is welcoming, respectful and celebratory for trans girls and women is only one small step.”
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