The House on Thursday passed legislation aimed at preventing biological males from competing as transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports at schools across the country, after a debate in which several Democrats accused Republicans of “bullying” transgender students by calling up the bill.
The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act passed in a 219-203 vote Thursday morning – all the “yes” votes came from Republicans, and all the “no” votes came from Democrats.
Republicans defended the bill as an attempt to spare women and girls from having to compete against transgender women and girls – biological males who can sometimes dominate these sports and prevent some female athletes from making the team. But several Democrats argued in debate that the GOP bill is an extension of the bullying that transgender students are already facing at school.
“This bill is about bullying children,” said Rep. Greg Landsman, D-Ohio. “Stop bullying children.”
“House Republicans are choosing to bully and belittle trans children,” argued Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Calif. “This is about attacking a small group of children, and it is shameful.”
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“We should rename it the cancel kids trans hate bill,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Mich., said of the legislation. “This bill fuels a virulent hate campaign against kids who just want to play with their friends.”
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., said the bill would make school sports “less safe for women and girls,” and argued that even discussing the legislation on the House floor was doing harm to transgender students.
“This debate itself has been traumatizing,” he asserted.
Republicans rejected these arguments and said they are trying to protect girls’ and women’s sports from being taken over by biological males. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said Democrats are ignoring the “physical advantages” that men have over women and rejected Jayapal’s argument that the GOP is waging a “hate” campaign against transgender students.
“We hate no one,” Foxx said. “It is ridiculous that we have had to stand here today to defend the rights of women and girls to participate in sports against other women and girls and they not being taken advantage of by biological males.”
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Republicans also accused Democrats of pursuing transgender rights to an illogical end that goes against the intent of Title IX, which most credit with dramatically expanding participation in women’s sports.
“Congress in 1972 created Title IX to protect women’s sports to enable women to have an equal playing field in athletics,” said Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., who sponsored the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act. “In worship to their trans idols, the administration wants to flip that on its head. It is insane.”
Under Steube’s bill, educational institutions that receive Title IX funding from the federal government would not be allowed to “permit a person whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designed for women or girls.” The bill adds that the sex of an athlete is defined only by their “reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
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Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., noted the well-known case of Lia Thomas, a biological male who competed against women and won an NCAA swimming title last year.
“Lia Thomas, whose given name at birth is William Thomas, ranks 65th among men in the 500-yard men’s freestyle; however, he could beat all the biological women,” Good said. “A female student athlete at nearby Virginia Tech lost her opportunity to compete in the finals because a man took her place.”
NCAA champion swimmer Riley Gaines, who competed against Thomas and is now an activist looking to defend women’s sports from trans athletes, said she supported Steube’s bill when he introduced it.
“As an athlete who has experienced the injustice of competing against a male firsthand, I’m grateful for the leadership of Representative Steube,” Gaines wrote. “He has made it clear that he will fight for fairness, privacy, and safety for girls and women in sports.”
Steube has said he introduced his bill in order to “save women’s sports” from transgender women and girls who are denying biological women and girls spots on the team’s roster, and sometimes dominate these sports. He said a dangerous shift in U.S. culture requires a defense from Congress.
“Over the last several years there has been a perversion in our culture by the enemy, and the left has completely embraced the lie to erase the lines of gender and to convince you there isn’t really gender, and that gender is fluid and can be whatever you want whenever you want,” he said. “The left has taken gender identity so far that many on the left today cannot even define what a woman is for fear of retribution by trans activisists.”
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House passage sends the bill to the Senate, where Democrat leaders are unlikely to take it up, and President Biden has said he would veto the bill if it made it to his desk.