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Governor Tom Wolf via AL DÍA Archives
Governor Tom Wolf via AL DÍA Archives

Wolf’s pen vetoes transphobic legislation

“Hate has no place in Pennsylvania,” Governor Tom Wolf wrote on Twitter.

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On Friday, July 8, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 972, PA Republicans' targeted approach to obstruct transgender youth involvement in interscholastic, intercollegiate, and intramural clubs related to the state public school system or any state-sponsored institution.

HB 972, known as the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, is all but equal as it moves to prohibit transgender participation in sports based on the student's biological sex. The bill mentions transphobic rhetoric throughout its four pages, citing "athletic teams or sports designated for females, women or girls… may not be open to students of the male sex."

It goes on to suggest that it is not meant to restrict a student's eligibility to participate in sports designed for the student's sex, except when it pertains to trans participation, in which case the student's own livelihood is denied by virtue of Republican's mischaracterization of what being transgender entails. 

The legislation was introduced following Lia Thomas's victory, bringing the University of Pennsylvania an NCAA Division I swimming title in the 500-yard freestyle event, making her the first transgender athlete to score a win in this capacity. Thereafter, Thomas became the center of a national debate on whether transgender athletes were eligible for participation with their respective counterparts. 

The same could not be said for male, trans participation. 

While there is a long way to go in understanding how trans-specific procedures affect athletic performance, most studies are inconclusive and even suggest that, in some case studies, trans women experienced lagging performance after transitioning.

Regarding policy, the NCAA remains vigilant of all participants' testosterone intake before competing, ensuring a fair competing environment. 

"We are steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports," said John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president.

In a statement, the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus condemned Republicans for advancing targeted legislation.

"This bill is an ignorant attempt to fix a problem that doesn't exist. If the majority's intent is to give women a level playing field, we should address the inequities in funding, resources, media coverage and pay in women's sports," said Sen. Katie Muth, co-chair of the caucus. 

In response to Wolf's veto, the bill's sponsors criticized his decision, noting insensibility towards women's advancements in sports, though it remains unclear which advancements they were referring to. 

Though the veto serves as temporary relief for PA's transgender population, the upcoming gubernatorial elections will be decisive for constituents that rely on these protections to participate fairly and equally in athletic settings.

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