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The State Senate passed a bill that would ban trans women from women's sports. It will be vetoed by the Governor. Photo: Andre Freuh/Unsplash.
The State Senate passed a bill that would ban trans women from women's sports. It will be vetoed by the Governor. Photo: Andre Freuh/Unsplash.

PA Senate passes bill banning trans women from women’s sports

It’s an effort the Republican-majority legislature has tried before, only to be vetoed by the governor. That’s likely to happen again.

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On Tuesday, June 7, the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate advanced legislation that would prohibit transgender women from participating in women’s sports.

The measure, which passed with a vote of 30-20, is now heading to the House, where a similar bill was previously approved.

Sponsored by Sen. Judy Ward, the bill requires schools and colleges to designate sports teams as male, female, or coed.

During the floor debate, supporters insisted that the bill would level the playing field for cisgender athletes. However, opponents argued that the exclusive nature of the bill would harm young people who are already marginalized. 

Under the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, girls and women’s sports teams would “not be open to students of the male sex,” which is determined by their “biology and genetic make-up.”

These restrictions would apply to students in all K-12 public schools and colleges, along with intramural or club sports teams that are sponsored by a school. 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has a policy for transgender participation which is determined on a sport-by-sport basis, and it allows for the national governing body of that sport to decide. 

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has a similar policy, which allows principals to make decisions about transgender athletic participation. 

When trans swimmer Lia Thomas headed into last year’s NCAA Division I Championship, many predicted that the UPenn swimmer would “dominate” her three events, and break American records in the sport. 

Some even argued that Thomas’ participation alone was the “beginning of the end of women’s sports.” 

But out of the meet’s 18 events, the 22-year-old only won one race and placed in the top eight in two others. Her race times were not extraordinary, and she didn’t break any records. 

Yet many still believe that trans women taking up space on women’s teams is inherently a threat to the sanctity and future of women’s sports. 

On the Senate floor, Ward said that athletic opportunities for women are in jeopardy, claiming that men have “distinct and meaningful physical advantages over women,” which give them an athletic advantage. 

Last February, Axios reporter Jeff Tracy broke down some of the existing research on this matter and explained how the studies differ. 

One study, conducted by researchers from the Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology at University of Nottingham, U.K, found that trans women have no competitive advantage. 

But another study, published last year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggested that trans women may retain an edge over the cisgender peers for up to two years after their first dose of hormone therapy. 

The nonprofit legal group, Women’s Law Project, said in a statement that the act is “deeply disturbing” and attempts to solve a “fake problem.”

The measure will now head to the House for consideration, and if passed, it will head to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk for final approval.

Gov. Wolf has previously stated that he plans to veto the bill, according to his spokeswoman Elizabeth Rementer. 

“The governor has been clear: Hate has no place in Pennsylvania, and that includes discrimination. Any legislation designed to deny opportunities is both disturbing and dangerous and the governor would veto this legislation,” she said.

If Wolf vetoes the bill, Republicans do not currently have a supermajority in the state House to overcome it.

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