Mississippi gov will sign bill limiting transgender athletes

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks about his policy priorities and the state's coronavirus pandemic response during his State of the State speech on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, on the south steps of the state Capitol in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) (Rogelio V. Solis, Copyright 2021. The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi is on track to become the first state this year to enact a law banning transgender athletes from competing on girls or women's sports teams.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday that he will sign a bill that the Republican-controlled Mississippi Legislature has passed. It should reach his desk in the next few days.

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Mississippi is one of more than 20 states proposing restrictions on athletics or gender-confirming health care for transgender minors this year. Conservative lawmakers are responding to an executive order by Democratic President Joe Biden that bans discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere. Biden signed it Jan. 20, the day he took office.

Wyatt Ronan, a spokesman for the LGBTQ civil rights group Human Rights Campaign, said the Mississippi bill would be the first transgender sports ban signed into law this year. Idaho enacted a similar law in 2020 that has been blocked by a federal court.

Reeves has three daughters who play sports, and he said on Twitter that Mississippi's Senate Bill 2536 would “protect young girls from being forced to compete with biological males for athletic opportunities.”

“It’s crazy we have to address it, but the Biden E.O. forced the issue,” Reeves tweeted Thursday. “Adults? That’s on them. But the push for kids to adopt transgenderism is just wrong.”

Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David sharply criticized Mississippi and other states that are considering such legislation.

“While millions of people in Mississippi are waiting for urgent relief as it relates to COVID-19, the leaders of Mississippi are not focused on that. Rather, they’re focused on prioritizing bullying against transgender kids," David said during an online news conference Thursday.

The Mississippi House passed the bill Wednesday, and the Senate passed it last month. The votes were largely along party lines, with most Republicans supporting the bill and most Democrats either opposing it or refraining from voting.

Republican legislators who pushed the bill gave no evidence of any transgender athletes competing in Mississippi schools or universities.

A Mississippi mother with a transgender daughter spoke Thursday during the Human Rights Campaign news conference. Katy Binstead said her daughter has already been blocked from playing on a middle school girls basketball team because of the sex listed on her birth certificate. Binstead said the principal said her daughter could try to play on the boys team.

“My daughter isn't comfortable playing with the boys because she's not a boy and she never has been a boy,” Binstead said.

Jarvis Dortch, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said Thursday that the transgender sports bill is an example of lawmakers “legislating based on hate and fear.”

“The purpose of SB2536 is not to protect women athletes,” Dortch said. “It's to tell transgender kids that they do not belong, that they're not welcome."

Supporters of bills such as the one in Mississippi argue that transgender girls, because they were born male, are naturally stronger, faster and bigger than those born female. Opponents say such proposals violate not only Title IX of federal education law prohibiting sex discrimination, but also rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.

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