House passes bill restricting transgender athletes

Published 9:54 am Wednesday, May 18, 2022

By Piper Hutchinson |  LSU Manship School News Service

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would prohibit transgender athletes from competing according to their gender identity.

Senate Bill 44, sponsored by Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, is titled the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” It requires athletes from the elementary through college level to compete based on their sex at birth.

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The Louisiana High School Athletic Association, which governs high school sports, already requires athletes to compete according to their sex assigned at birth.

The bill cleared the house 72-21. Seven Democrats representatives — Ken Brass of Vacherie, Robby Carter of Amite, Mack Cormier of Belle Chasse, Travis Johnson of Vidalia, Jeremy Lacombe of Livonia, Dustin Miller of Opelousas and Francis Thompson of Delhi, voted for the
bill. One of the House’s three Independents, Rep. Joe Marino, voted against the bill.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed the bill when it came up last year and has said he has not changed his stance.

The House needs 70 votes to override a veto. Last year, the bill passed with 78 in favor. Several representatives ultimately changed their votes. The bill was carried on the floor by Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Metairie. Schlegel cited transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, who won an NCAA title earlier this year. Schlegel argued that Thomas’ victory was not fair.

Schlegel used the name Thomas  at birth, a practice referred to as “deadnaming,” which is considered offensive.

The bill, which was originally intended to apply to all athletics in Louisiana, was amended on the House floor to exclude intramural sports, meaning that it would only apply to competitive sports. While NCAA policy allows transgender athletes to compete under certain circumstances, the bill might supersede that. While research is being done on whether transgender athletes have competitive advantages,
critics of the bill spoke of the harm transgender youth experience.

In 2020, 52 percent of all transgender and nonbinary youth reported that they had seriously considered suicide, according to a survey by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention organization.

Several Democrats spoke against the bill.

“My faith tells me we need to love and accept these children. They are vulnerable,” Rep. Sam Jenkins, D-Shreveport, said.

Rep. Rodney Lyons, D-Harvey, said that passing the bill would give Louisiana a culture of “hate and meanness.”

Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, defended the bill.

“This bill is not about hatred,” Edmonds said. “This bill is not about Christianity, violence or any other thing that we would sidebar. This bill is particular about one thing: Do we have the will to protect our young girls and young women that want to participate in female sports?”

Schlegel read a letter that she said had been written by a runner who lost a competition to two transgender women.

“I lost the chance to be scouted by top coaches, possibly to even win a scholarship,” the letter said. “Women fought too hard for too long so girls like me have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Worst of all, when girls try to object, when we point out the truth that
biological differences in strength and speed between boys and girls are massive and they’re real, we are called bigots.”

Several amendments to the bill were rejected on the House floor.

Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, proposed an amendment that would allow for a medical examination of an athlete whose biological sex is called into question. The amendment failed 82-11.

Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, proposed an amendment that would allow for harsher criminal penalties for anybody who commits a sexual offense during an examination meant to determine the biological sex of an athlete. Landry’s amendment failed 61-35 in a largely party-line vote. Several Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the amendment.

Because the bill was amended on the House floor, it now goes back to the Senate for another vote.