At House hearing, some argue proposed transgender sports ban would violate anti-discrimination law

A bill that would ban transgender girls from participating on girls sports teams went before the House’s Education Committee on Monday, April 22.

A bill that would ban transgender girls from participating on girls sports teams went before the House’s Education Committee on Monday, April 22. JEREMY MARGOLIS / Monitor staff

By JEREMY MARGOLIS

Monitor staff

Published: 04-23-2024 4:30 PM

Modified: 04-24-2024 11:43 AM


A week after a federal appeals court ruled a transgender sports ban in West Virginia was discriminatory, more than a dozen transgender girls, parents, educators and advocates in New Hampshire argued that a similar ban under consideration in New Hampshire would also violate federal discrimination law.

Their comments came at a House Education Committee hearing for Senate Bill 375 on Monday, the latest in a multi-year string of proposed legislation that would ban transgender girls and women from participating on female NHIAA- and NCAA-sanctioned sports teams in the state.

On Tuesday, the House Education Committee voted 19-1 to table the bill, with Democrats opposing it and Republicans favoring a similar bill, HB 1205, that they passed in the House in March and which is now being considered in the Senate.

HB 1205 would require all sports teams in fifth grade through twelfth grade to be designated as “boys”, “girls”, or “mixed” teams, and would prohibit students assigned male at birth from participating in the teams designated as for “girls.” It would not place a similar prohibition on girls participating in “boys” teams.

Proponents of both bills have argued legislation is necessary to protect the safety and fairness of girls’ and women’s sports.

Citing four widely-circulated and disputed instances in which transgender girls playing on girls’ sports teams reportedly caused injuries in other states over the past three years, Senate bill sponsor and Republican Sen. Tim Lang said a ban would “address safety for biological females.”

No injuries involving transgender girls participating in sports in New Hampshire have been publicly reported.

Lang also argued that absent a law, transgender girls and women could take away roster spots and scholarships from cisgender girls. The one example he cited, however, involved the University of Washington offering and then later rescinding a volleyball scholarship to a student-athlete who has not publicly identified herself as transgender.

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Nationally, less than 0.5% of high school athletes and approximately 30 collegiate athletes are estimated to be transgender. There is no estimate of how many transgender girl and woman athletes there are in New Hampshire.

Maëlle Jacques, a Keararge Regional High School soccer player and track athlete and one of the few transgender girls in the state who plays on a girls high school sports team, said on Monday that the proposed law would prevent her from playing sports entirely.

“Joining the male teams wouldn’t even be a choice for me with the bullying effects I’ve seen, let alone the mental anguish I’d go through being forced to be someone I’m not,” said Jacques, who shared her story with the Monitor last week.

Jacques also dismissed the concerns of some proponents of the bill, who have argued that boys and men pretend to be transgender in order to gain a leg up.

“I didn’t join sports with the goal of dominating competition or being better than anyone else,” Jacques said. “No one would go through the bullying and self-hatred of transition purely to win a sport, especially women’s sports, which are underappreciated in our nation.”

Advocates from a variety of state and national organizations contended on Monday that the laws would force school districts to engage in gender discrimination. Last week, the Fourth Circuit ruled that a Bridgeport, West Virginia middle school couldn’t bar a 13-year-old transgender girl from participating in its girl’s cross country team, though, the judges wrote, their ruling did not necessarily apply to all transgender girls or to all gender-based restrictions on school athletics.

Separately, the U.S. Department of Education previewed proposed changes to Title IX earlier this month that, if adopted, would prohibit blanket transgender bans, and establish guidelines for eligibility criteria.

“The legislature must not compel schools to violate Title IX,” said Chris Erchull, a lawyer at GLAD, an LGBTQ advocacy organization.

On Monday, 20 speakers opposed SB375, four supported it, and two did not make their positions clear.

One of the bill’s supporters, Jennifer Black of Windham, said it would protect women’s sports.

“Women fought long and hard to have athletic teams of their own,” Black said. “To allow individuals born as boys to take those opportunities from girls and women and put women and girls in physical danger due to their size, strength, and speed would be turning back the clock to a time when women were sidelined and their only option was to cheer on the men.”

The Senate Education Committee has yet to schedule a hearing on HB 1205. Gov. Chris Sununu has also not indicated whether he would sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.