BATON ROUGE — The Senate Education Committee on Thursday introduced a bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing based on their gender identity.
Senate Bill 44, sponsored by Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, is dubbed the “Women’s Sports Equity Act.” The bill requires athletes from elementary to college level to compete based on their sex at birth.
The bill passed the committee unanimously, with neither of the two Democrats on the committee, Sen. Cleo Fields of Baton Rouge, or Sen. Katrina Jackson, of Monroe objecting.
The bill is redundant at the high school level, as the Louisiana High School Athletic Association already requires athletes to compete based on their sex at birth, leading critics to call the bill a solution in search of ‘a problem. When the bill was introduced last year, the LHSAA said it was aware of only one transgender athlete who had attempted to compete in Louisiana.
But if the bill becomes law, it could rock college athletics. NCAA policy allows transgender athletes to compete under certain circumstances.
Mizell said that over the past year she has become more convinced of her necessity.
“Our point has been made during this year,” she said. “We’ve seen biological females place second and third in women’s swim meets, unable to achieve first place,” Mizell said. “This year, the data showed that the winning times in the women’s Olympic final wouldn’t even reach the times needed to face high school kids.”
SK Groll, an anthropologist and transgender advocate, opposed the use of science by supporters of the bill.
“The way biology is used both in the text of this bill and in this room today needs to be looked at in a lot more depth, and with a lot more science behind it,” Groll said.
Little research has been conducted on whether transgender athletes have competitive advantages over their cisgender counterparts. What is well documented is the harm suffered by transgender youth.
In 2020, 52% of all transgender and non-binary youth said they were seriously considering suicide, according to a survey by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention organization.
Ponchatoula High School women’s basketball coach Patricia Landaiche testified in support of the bill.
“What I’m here to discuss is how their rights diminish the rights of biological female athletes when they are allowed to fill positions reserved for biological female athletes,” Landaiche said.
R-Central Republican Sen. Bodi White asked Landaiche if she thought LSU women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey could compete with the boys.
“She never would have made the cut,” Landaiche said. “She may have never stepped on the court.”
Mulkey competed on a boys’ basketball team in college.
SarahJane Guidry, executive director of Forum for Equality, an LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, spoke about the harm the bill has done to transgender youth.
“When we tell transgender girls that they can’t play women’s sports, they’re missing out on all of these very important childhood experiences that are denied to them,” Guidry said. “There are over a dozen states with policies that allow transgender children to participate in sports and they work. We compare Olympic and collegiate athletes to college students. There is no differentiation in this bill.
Guidry said she would have worked with lawmakers to create a more inclusive bill.
Tucker Barker, a transgender advocate, highlighted the issues facing transgender youth.
“I’m here to state before this committee that there are very real effects of bills like this,” Barker said. “I see these effects every day. Over 100 anti-trans bills have been introduced this year.
Barker added that 2019 data from the Trevor Project indicates that 71% of LGBTQ people reported discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. “This bill provides a pathway and a blueprint for that discrimination,” said Barker, who is transgender.
Barker spoke about the benefits of participating in youth sports.
“We all agree on how team sports provide discipline, teamwork, creative problem solving, confidence and a safe place to experience fitness and joy in your body. “, Barker said.