A Louisiana bill would ban trans athletes from the field

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — A measure drafted in Louisiana’s legislature would largely bar transgender athletes from competitive high school or college sports.

The “Save Women’s Sports Act” would open girls’ and women’s teams only to those who can prove — with a doctor’s note upon request — that they were born female. Trans student-athletes born male would either have to play on a coed team, or they would not get to play at all.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton), claims her legislation would shield biological females from potentially unfair play.

“The evidence is unequivocal that starting in puberty, in every sport except sailing, shooting and riding, there will always be significant numbers of boys and men who would prevail over the best girls and women in head-to-head competition,” the bill adds. “Claims to the contrary are simply a denial of science.”

The legislation asserts that even after sex reassignment procedures, athletes born male have “denser and stronger bones, tendons and ligaments,” as well as higher levels of testosterone — “which result in men being able to generate higher speed and power during physical activity.”

“The benefits that natural testosterone provides to male athletes is not diminished through the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones,” the bill states.

The measure has gained support from the Louisiana Family Forum and from U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto). Abraham, a physician who ran for governor in 2019, filmed a campaign advertisement in which he said, “As a doctor, I can assure you there are only two genders.”

“I do believe there are two genders,” Abraham said in an interview Tuesday. “I do not want a transgender male running, competing against female athletes.”

Opponents of the bill argue that banning transgender student-athletes would further marginalize a group facing unfairness of its own.

“This legislative proposal enshrines into law discrimination against transgender children, who already face a crisis-level epidemic of bullying, harassment and violence in our schools,” Louisiana Trans Advocates president Dylan Waguespack said.

More than 23,000 people in Louisiana identify as transgender, including one in 50 teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Waguespack and members of 18 women’s equality organizations sent an open letter Monday, demanding Mizell pull her bill.

“Such a massive overreach into the lives and bodies of young women is in the service of a cynical political effort to deploy the very existence of transgender people as a political wedge,” the letter reads.

The bill — which also mirrors proposals in Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, Tennessee and Washington — would legally protect coaches and school administrators who refuse to let those born male join girls’ or women’s teams and events.

The legislation would also let female athletes sue if a violation in the proposed law has “deprived [them] of an athletic opportunity” or has caused them “direct or indirect harm.” Such a lawsuit would only apply within two years of a perceived violation.

Transgender athletes could still join coed teams or competitions under the bill “so long as a female athletic team or sporting event is not disbanded for the purpose of creating a coed team or event.”

The fate of the measure remains unclear. Asked Monday whether he would sign or veto it, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards said he has yet to study all the proposals, ahead of the three-month legislative session that starts Monday, March 9.

“There are so many bills that were filed,” Edwards said. “We are just now starting the process of reading those, to identify those we’ll need to support or oppose moving forward, or where we would recommend changes be made. But now I’m just not prepared.”

“At some point, we will be ready to talk,” the governor added.

Edwards, in 2016, signed an executive order to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. A Baton Rouge court later overturned the order.

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