Oklahoma has become the latest state to advance legislation that would ban transgender girls from playing in girls’ and women’s sports.
The state’s Republican-controlled House passed Senate Bill 2 (SB 2) by a landslide 73-19 vote on Tuesday (20 April) after just “two hours of fierce discussion”, according to The Oklahoman. The bill would prevent trans athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s sports at publicly-funded K-12 schools, colleges and universities.
SB 2 states: “Athletic teams designated for ‘females,’ ‘women’ or ‘girls’ shall not be open to students of the male sex.” The House amended the bill on the floor to require parents to sign a form “acknowledging the biological sex of the student at birth” for their child to be able to participate in youth sports.
Democrats abhorred the bill, pointing out that complaints about transgender athletes are non-existent in the state. Indeed, while the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association has had rules on trans athletes for six years, they have never been required.
Republican Danny Sterling argued that “just because we don’t see a problem, we need to be proactive and be ready for that problem when it does occur”.
Democrat Mauree Turner, the first non-binary state lawmaker in US history, spoke in defence of trans kids.
“We are not providing a safe and welcoming place for our children,” they said. “We are not providing a place for people to civically engage in a way that they feel seen and heard. You’re not providing a place where I feel comfortable.”
Republican representative Toni Hasenbeck, the bill’s author, argued the bill was not designed to be “cruel or to be mean to a group of children”. Instead, she argued: “It is simply to protect the rights of young women so they do not have to compete against males, who are biologically and physiologically better able to run [and] jump higher and faster.”
This is the same argument that has been used across the slew of anti-trans legislation being debated across the US. Over 28 states are debating or introduced legislation to ban trans athletes in sports this year.
Following the vote, the ACLU of Oklahoma argued that the proposals are discriminatory and in violation of both the US Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act.
“Today’s vote on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives to embed discrimination against transgender youth into state law compromises their health, social and emotional development, and safety, said Nicole McAfee, ACLU of Oklahoma’s director of policy and advocacy.
“If passed into law, this bill would alienate trans students, embolden discriminatory behaviours from staff and other students and make for hostile school environments. It perpetuates harmful myths about transgender people and reduces trans students to political pawns. It runs counter to the public need of creating safe and nurturing environments for all students.”