Republican Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson signed a ban on transgender women and girls competing in school sports into law Thursday (25 March).
In signing Senate Bill 354, known as the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act”, Hutchinson has made Arkansas the second US this year to pass a ban targeting transgender athletes who want to compete as their correct gender.
The ban applies to all trans students, including at elementary, middle and high schools, as well as in colleges.
The LGBT+ civil rights organisation Human Rights Campaign said: “This cruel and harmful bill will ban trans girls from playing sports from elementary school all the way through college.
“Governor Hutchinson’s eagerness to sign this discriminatory legislation is an affront not just to the transgender kids it is bound to hurt but to all Arkansans who will be impacted by its consequences.”
In a statement, Hutchinson said: “Today, I have signed into law SB354 called the ‘Fairness in Women’s Sports Act’. I have studied the law and heard from hundreds of constituents on this issue.
“I signed the law as a fan of women’s sports from basketball to soccer and including many others in which women compete successfully. This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition.
“As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law. This will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.”
Under the new law, students who claim they have suffered “direct or indirect harm” could take their school to court for violating the ban, according to ABC News. If it is not stalled by a legal challenge, as similar legislation has been in Idaho, the ban will go into effect this summer.
Arkansas’ ban comes just two weeks after Mississippi governor Tate Reeves signed a similar bill to go into effect in July, amid a “legislative boom” in the first three months of 2021 which has seen at least 25 states introduce over 60 bills targeting transgender children.
Having signed the cruel anti-trans sports bill into law, Hutchinson is now considering another bill, this time to allow doctors and EMTs to refuse to treat patients on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
SB 289, also known as the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act, would terrifyingly give medical and healthcare professionals the right to refuse treatment to someone because their “religious, moral or ethical beliefs”.