A Michigan bill aimed at requiring transgender student athletes to compete in school sports teams based on their assigned anatomy at birth has been a point of contention over the past week. The Michigan High School Athletic Association called the bill "unnecessary" and Equality Michigan has spoken out saying the legislation is unconstitutional. However, Republican sponsors are confident the bill is a way to protect female sports.
Republican Senator Lana Theis introduced Senate Bill 218 last week with 12 other Republican co-sponsors. In a statement regarding the measure, Theis said the bill was intended to keep playing fields equal, saying:
“As a society, we fought for generations to ensure girls and women, through Title IX, have an equal opportunity to compete in athletics on a level playing field. Sadly, today, identity politics threatens all that was sacrificed and gained. Across our country, biological females are losing opportunities at titles, records, scholarships and, at times, participation itself. Something must be done to preserve the legacy of Title IX — a staple of American society. So, very simply, my bill will ensure that, in school sports in Michigan, student athletes will compete against one another according to their biological sex — females against females, and males against males.”
Groups like Equality Michigan have refuted Theis' claims. Erin Knott, the organization's executive director, said there isn't evidence to support that transgendered students have an advantage when it comes to school sports.
"Trans students just like cisgender students vary in terms of athletic ability and it is a myth and a mistruth that they somehow have a competitive advantage. There is not a single example of a cisgender student facing harm by the participation of transgender students in school sports in accordance with their gender identity," Knott said.
While Republican legislators backing the bill have cited Title IX protections as a reason for the bill, Knott said the legislation itself goes against the protections that Title IX covers.
"This proposed legislation is unconstitutional," Knott said, "The legislation would also be in violation of Title IX, the Federal Civil Rights law that bar discrimination against transgender students in education adn educational activities."
In speaking with WGVU, Knott went onto cite Michigan High School Athletic Association's findings in which the organization said it recieved 10 inquires over the past five years regarding MHSAA transgender policy, compared to the roughly 180,000 high school athletes in Michigan annually.
"I have heard a loud and clear message from the trans community that once again they're being disproportionately targeted in a multi-state attack," Knott said, "Legislation that the folks that lost the marraige battle years ago are constantly looking at new ways to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and unfortunately at this point in time they're targeting our most vulnerable young population."
The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Career Readiness for consideration.
Knott is encouraging any transgender youth who are facing impact by conversations surrounding this legislation to reach out to Equality Michigan's crisis services.