Transgender sports debate heads to the Louisiana House floor

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State Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, the Senate’s second-highest ranking member, speaks about legislative work in response to a report that details Louisiana State University’s repeated mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations, on Friday, March 19, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana House will debate whether to bar transgender athletes from competing on girls’ sports teams in schools, after a committee Wednesday advanced the Senate-backed measure and moved it one step from the governor’s desk.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards opposes the bill by Franklinton Sen. Beth Mizell, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican.

Despite a likely veto, the House Education Committee voted 10-4 to send the legislation to the full House. The panel narrowly rejected a similar proposal a week earlier, but more lawmakers were present for Wednesday’s vote.

Supporters of the bill said they’re trying to protect female athletes from unfair competition.

Jennifer Marusak, executive director of the Ports Association of Louisiana, testified for the bill — not on behalf of her organization, but as a former student athlete who ran track. She said the legislation preserves equality for women’s sports.

“I just can’t imagine losing a race before I ever even got in the starting blocks,” Marusak said.

Opponents call the measures discriminatory and note that Mizell can’t point to a Louisiana example of transgender women breaking records or competing in female sports.

“I don’t see this as a problem we need to solve in Louisiana,” said Rep. Aimee Freeman, a New Orleans Democrat.

Mizell replied: “I don’t know why we’d want to wait until the state is in a lawsuit with a school or a family.”

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association has taken a position that student athletes “shall compete in the gender of their birth certificate unless they have undergone sex reassignment.”

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The bill is filed as Senate Bill 156.

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