New raft of bills target transgender youth in sports, health care
As news broke this week that Rep. Tricia Cotham’s party change would hand Republicans a veto-proof super majority in both chambers of the General Assembly, GOP lawmakers filed six new bills targeting transgender youth, their participation in sports, and their healthcare.
Senate Bill 631 and House Bill 574, both filed Wednesday, would prohibit transgender students from playing on school teams for the gender with which they identify, codifying that “a student’s sex shall be recognized based solely on the student’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
Senate Bill 636, also filed Wednesday, specifically prohibits transgender women from participating in female-designated sports teams.
“We are outraged to see lawmakers target our most vulnerable youth,” said Kendra Johnson, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group Equality NC, in a statement Wednesday. “Banning kids from playing sports because of who they are prevents them from having positive and formative experiences at school.”
“These bills do nothing to address the real issues facing our youth, like gun violence in schools or the mental health crisis,” Johnson said. “Instead of working to make schools safe environments, our lawmakers are bullying queer and trans kids.”
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the conservative NC Values Coalition, praised the bills as necessary to “protect females from being forced to play against biological males on sports teams, which can leave females with injuries and cheats them out of equal opportunities.”
“Girls deserve a level playing field,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “Allowing males to compete in girls’ sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women. We can’t allow women to be benched from equal opportunities in sports.”
As NC Newsline has reported, the history of advancement in women’s sports and transgender participation in sports has actually been a decades-long parallel journey.
There is an ongoing debate over the regulation of participation by transgender athletes in competitive sports. But that debate is not new. Scientific consensus has led major sports organizations like the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission to draw up their own guidelines allowing transgender athletes to compete alongside the gender with which they identify.
The International Olympic Committee has allowed transgender athletes to do so at the highest level of international competition since 2003. The NCAA has had a policy on inclusion of transgender athletes since 2011. In 2019, World Athletics — the international body governing sports competitions like track and field and cross country running — revised its policy to become even more inclusive.
None of those organizations use the standard set forth in bills filed this week (“reproductive biology and genetics at birth”), which has been widely abandoned since U.S. and international courts began ruling against its use in the late 1970s.
The new, sports-focused bills are a revival of a failed 2021 bill targeting transgender students’ participation in sports. That bill was met with heavy resistance from students, parents, doctors and medical groups as well as youth, collegiate and professional sports teams and associations.
Ultimately, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore dismissed that bill as a solution in search of a problem, saying transgender athletes competing in North Carolina wasn’t an issue. The same day Moore moved the bill to the House Rules committee, Apple Inc. announced it would open an east coast campus in the Triangle, bringing more than 3,000 jobs to the area in the next ten years. Apple and its CEO Tim Cook, who is gay, have been strong advocates for the LGBTQ community, specifically decrying bills that target LGBTQ youth.
Moore denied negotiations over the campus and its announcement played any part in the bill being shelved in 2021. It isn’t yet clear whether the diminished threat of a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper will make the difference in this new round of trans-centered legislation, however it may be met by businesses with which the state wants to maintain good relationships.
Also filed this week, a series of bills that center on medical treatment for transgender youth and a proposal that would let doctors opt out of treatment to which they have religious objections.
SB 560 restricts gender-affirming care for minors, bans telehealth visits for gender-affirming counseling and treatment and prohibiting medical professionals providing gender-affirming care from receiving public funds.
SB 639 would outlaw gender-affirming care for minors altogether, including treatments in use for decades which mainstream medical organizations consider a life-saving standard of care.
SB 641 would allow medical providers to refuse to provide care if they have religious objections, which could allow them to legally discriminate against transgender patients.
NC Newsline has reported extensively on the fears of transgender young people and their parents that new laws would prevent them making their own medical decisions in consultation with their family doctors.
The NC Values Coalition praised trans health-related bills, calling them a defense of children and the right of doctors to practice according to their consciences.
Equality NC denounced the bills, with Johnson saying: “preventing parents from making decisions on their child’s healthcare is harmful and life-threatening.”