Mississippi Governor Signs Bill Banning Transgender Athletes from Women's Sports Teams

Sulabh Gupta

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed a bill today, 11th March that will ban transgender athletes from competing in girls' or women's sports teams. The federal court blocked a similar law in Idaho last year and this bill makes Mississippi the first state this year to enact such a ban. Reports suggest that a dozen of other states are considering signing similar bills.

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Photo: Governor Tate Reeves

The Human Rights Campaign criticized the Governor's bill as an "endorsement of transphobia". Provided it can go through the expected legal challenges, the proposed Senate Bill 2536 is set to become law from July 1st.

"He's turned his back on his constituents and made Mississippi a symbol of hate," tweeted the Human Rights Campaign Group.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order banning gender identity based discrimination in school sports and elsewhere on January 20th, the first day he took office. The push for restrictions on transgender in healthcare and athletics seems to be a response by more conservative states to this order from President Biden. More than 20 states are proposing restrictions on gender-confirming healthcare and athletics for transgender minors this year.

"This bill will 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. Adults? That's on them. But the push for kids to adopt transgenderism is just wrong." said Governor Reeves on twitter.

The legislation called the "Mississippi Fairness Act" states that " Athletic teams or sports designated for 'females,' 'women' or 'girls' shall not be open to students of the male sex n public K-12 and colleges and universities in Mississippi "

Governor Reeves said he expects Mississippi to be sued over the legislation is prepared for any legal challenges that come his way. Governor Reeves, a father of three daughters who play sports, said, "It sends a clear message to my daughters and all of Mississippi’s daughters that their rights are worth fighting for."

No surprise that several LGBTQ rights groups were appalled by the bill and expressed their anger.

"Governor Reeves' eagerness to become the face of the latest anti-transgender push is appalling, as he chooses fear and division over facts and science. This law is a solution in search of a problem, and legislators in Mississippi have not provided any examples of Mississippi transgender athletes gaming the system for competitive advantage because none exist. Bullying transgender kids is no way to govern the state out of the crises they face. Transgender kids deserve better and so does Mississippi," said Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign.

Chase Strangio who is a transgender-rights attorney defined the Mississippi bill as "very vague and seemingly unenforceable". He further added, “Unfortunately, there is already rampant discrimination against trans youth in Mississippi, which means people are already driven out of the sport."

It is clear as day that the Executive Order that President Joe Biden signed on the first day of his office has put a rift and pushed conservative states to push bills that undermine the order President Biden signed. Alliance Defending Freedom, a group defending the Idaho law praised the Mississippi law.

"When we ignore science and biological reality, female athletes lose medals, podium spots, public recognition, and opportunities to compete," said Christina Holcomb, attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom group.

The Mississippi bill was passed by the Senate on Feb 11 and the House passed it on March 3. As expected, most republicans supported the bills, and most democrats either opposed it or refrained from voting.

Certain supports of the bill argue that transgender girls were born naturally faster, stronger, and bigger than those who were born female, and therefore it gives them an unfair advantage over natural women. Opponents of the bill argue that such proposals violate several previous rulings by the Supreme court and encourage transphobia. Furthermore, legislators have not provided any examples of how transgender athletes have a competitive advantage in sports.

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