Wisconsin Republicans Reintroduce Bills to Ban Transgender Girls and Women from Female Athletics

Wisconsin Republicans Reintroduce Bills to Ban Transgender Girls and Women from Female Athletics

By Baylor Spears

Wisconsin Republican lawmakers re-introduced bills on Wednesday that would ban transgender girls and women from participating in women’s sports and would require student athletes to play on teams that correspond with the sex assigned to them at birth, unless a team is designated as co-ed.

Co-authors Rep. Barbara Dittrich (R-Oconomowoc) and Sen. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) said that the bill would “save women’s sports.” Democrats and advocacy groups criticized the bills, saying they are harmful to transgender youth and would represent an unnecessary intervention in children’s sports by the government.

“These bills would afford three categories of sports competition based on a person’s biological sex with an additional co-ed category allowing for all to participate,” the lawmakers wrote in a co-sponsorship memo. “This assures inclusion while also protecting safety and irrefutable biological composition.”

The bills would require schools to designate sports or athletic teams into one of three categories based on students’ sex assigned at birth: males, females or males and females. The bills also require that schools prohibit a “male pupil” from participating on a team designated for “females.”

One bill would apply to K-12 public, independent charter and private voucher schools, while the other would apply to the University of Wisconsin System and technical colleges.

Similar bills were introduced by Wisconsin Republican lawmakers in 2021 and were passed by the Assembly, but failed to progress in the Senate.

A Better Wisconsin Together, a progressive nonprofit organization, said in a statement that the bill unjustly targets LGBTQ+ youth and would put lawmakers in charge of the sports that Wisconsin children can play.

“Politicians should not be the ones deciding what extracurricular activities our kids have access to,” executive director Chris Walloch said. “Instead of focusing on the things that we know promote healthy experiences in youth sports, like fully funded schools that can provide high quality coaches, resources, and facilities, Rep. Dittrich and other right-wing lawmakers are trying to use Wisconsin kids as political tools meant to distract and divide.”

The reintroduction of the bills in Wisconsin comes during a continued push by Republicans across the country to pass anti-transgender legislation. According to the Movement Advancement Project, 22 states have passed laws that ban transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would ban transgender student athletes nationwide from competing on girls’ sports teams consistent with their gender identity, something that Dittrich and Knodl noted in their memo to lawmakers. It’s unlikely that bill will make progress in the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

Wisconsin’s Legislative LGBTQ+ Caucus condemned the bills as discriminatory, saying it is an attack on LGBTQ youth in Wisconsin and will cause harm even if it doesn’t become law.

“Access to youth sports is crucially important to every student’s success, and all young people deserve the opportunity to participate in youth sports consistent with their gender identity,” the caucus said.

Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard said in a statement that Republicans have attacked transgender and non-binary people for years to score political points with their base.

“We know that mental health concerns among youth are on the rise, and we know that our LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers,” Agard said. “Despite this, my Republican colleagues are choosing to legislate hate and discriminate against our trans kids who just want to live and grow as their true selves.”

Rep. Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton), who is a member of the LGBTQ+ Caucus, tweeted that the “unnecessary and harmful” bills would be vetoed this session, if passed.

“The mere introduction of anti-transgender bills is harmful to transgender youth and affirms the Republican position of trying to erase an entire population of people to the detriment of youth mental health,” Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass added that the idea that “schools would create an entire co-ed class of athletics that would have enough individuals to allow for actual competition is ludicrous.” She said that transgender athletes don’t need a separate team, and there are already policies to keep all students safe while participating.

“To transgender and nonbinary youth in Wisconsin: the Legislative LGBTQ+ Caucus, our Democratic legislative colleagues, and our Governor will never stop fighting for you,” the LGBTQ+ caucus stated. “We will ensure that these bills will never become law.”

Gov. Tony Evers, who has opposed anti-LGBTQ policies throughout his time in office, recently vetoed a provision in the state budget that would have limited access to gender-affirming care, and will likely veto the trans sports bills if they pass the Legislature.

This article originally appeared at wisconsinexaminer.com