Mississippi Passes Anti-Trans Sports Bill

The Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi.
Wikimedia Commons/ Micahel Barera

Legislation banning transgender athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s sports passed both houses of Mississippi’s State Legislature, putting the state on the brink of becoming the first in the nation to finalize such a law this year.

The Mississippi Fairness Act, which requires schools and universities to “designate teams by biological sex,” cleared the lower house by a 81-28 margin on March 3 after the State Senate approved the bill last month in lopsided fashion, 34-9. Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican, is expected to sign the legislation into law.

The bill is one of dozens of similar pieces of legislation circulating statehouses across the nation in the midst of an all-out attack on transgender athletes — with girls’ and women’s sports being the center of attention. At least 60 bills have been filed across 30 states, with anti-trans sports bills clearing at least one chamber in Montana, Tennessee, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi, according to Freedom for All Americans, which is a bipartisan group working on securing non-discrimination protections for queer Americans. Among other provisions, the Mississippi bill also prohibits anyone from questioning the very nature of the law.

“A government entity, any licensing or accrediting organization, or any athletic association or organization shall not entertain a complaint, open an investigation, or take any other adverse action against a primary or secondary school or institution of higher education for maintaining separate interscholastic or intramural athletic teams or sports for students of the female sex,” the bill states.

It is possible that bills such as the one in Mississippi could have a difficult time standing up in court. Last year, Chief US District Judge David C. Nye blocked a similar anti-trans sports bill that was passed and signed into law in Idaho.

At the very least, advocates say lawmakers did a poor job designing the legislation.

“It will be the first anti-trans bill to pass and become law this year, though [it is] so poorly drafted I believe it is unenforceable,” Chase Strnagio, deputy director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said in a tweet.

While lawmakers are again equating “biological sex” to gender assignments at birth, that is a misleading term laced with false assumptions about individuals’ identities. Many of the Republicans who favored the bill cited the usual arguments pushed by conservatives — that transgender individuals who participate in girls’ and women’s sports are somehow violating fairness.

“As a father of a daughter, this bill provides protection and promotes fairness for all our children,” Republican State Representative Nick Bain said in a tweet after the bill passed the lower house.

The bill even drew considerable bipartisan support, with several Democrats voting in favor of the bill. Multiple Democrats who voted for the bill, including Representatives Jon Lancaster and Cedric Burnett, did not immediately respond to Gay City News’ request for comment on their vote.

Lawmakers are not only targeting transgender individuals in the sports world. Montana and Alabama, meanwhile, have also seen at least one of their respective chambers pass legislation restricting healthcare for trans youth this year.

A broad range of corporations and other businesses have typically voiced opposition to anti-trans legislation in statehouses, and 2021 is no different. More than 55 companies, from Capitol One to Apple, Facebook, PayPal, Microsoft, Uber, and Amazon have signed a letter rejecting state-based legislation targeting trans folks, according to Freedom for All Americans.

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