Transgender sports ban heads to Sununu

Sara Tirrell (second from right) advocates against a transgender sports ban bill that would ban her daughter, Parker, from playing girl’s soccer.

Sara Tirrell (second from right) advocates against a transgender sports ban bill that would ban her daughter, Parker, from playing girl’s soccer. JEREMY MARGOLIS/ Monitor staff

Nancy Brennan (left) holds up a Trans Rights sign with her daughter, Molly Brennan, in front of the State House as the senate begins to vote on several trans bills on Thursday, May 16, 2024.

Nancy Brennan (left) holds up a Trans Rights sign with her daughter, Molly Brennan, in front of the State House as the senate begins to vote on several trans bills on Thursday, May 16, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

By JEREMY MARGOLIS

Monitor staff

Published: 05-16-2024 1:42 PM

Modified: 05-16-2024 6:31 PM


The New Hampshire Senate passed a bill Thursday that would ban transgender girls from participating on public school-sponsored sports teams starting in fifth grade.

The bill, HB 1205, was passed by the House in March and now heads to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk. Gov. Sununu has not indicated whether he will support the ban and did not respond to a request for comment following the Senate’s vote.

A transgender sports ban currently exists in 25 states. Various bills that would ban transgender girls from participating on girls teams have been floated in New Hampshire during this legislative session, but this is the first to pass both bodies of the state legislature.

If signed into law, the bill would would require all sports teams in fifth grade through 12th grade to be designated as “boys,” “girls,” or “mixed” teams, and would prohibit students assigned male at birth from participating in the teams designated for “girls.”

The bill, which passed 13-10 along party lines in the Republican-majority Senate, has been described by proponents as necessary to protect safety and fairness in girls’ sports. Opponents, meanwhile, have countered that it unnecessarily targets the tiny number of transgender girls who wish to play sports in New Hampshire.

The exact number who would be affected by the ban is unclear, but nationally, less than 0.5% of high school athletes and approximately 30 collegiate athletes are estimated to be transgender.

One of the transgender girls who would be affected is a Parker Tirrell, a freshman soccer player at Plymouth Regional High School whose story was invoked several times by senators Thursday.

Reached Thursday afternoon, Parker’s mother, Sara Tirrell, said that Parker was currently playing travel soccer and that she was “disappointed and worried” by how the vote could strip her of a future in the sport.

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“Everything is so up in the air that it’s hard for her to be excited for things when she is so worried that she’s going to be kicked off the team,” said Sara, who now plans to mail Gov. Sununu a daily letter calling for him to veto the bill.

Sara, who has been advocating for Parker’s right to play girls soccer throughout this legislative session, said that she attempted to rally opposition for the vote from Sen. Denise Ricciardi Thursday morning, but that the senator told her that her vote didn’t matter because the rest of the Republican caucus was so entrenched.

“I often wonder what is even the point of having all these long discussions when everyone just knows who’s going to vote which way,” Sara said.

Hours later and prior to the sports ban vote, Sen. Riccardi passed out on the Senate floor in a dramatic moment that caused the floor to be temporarily cleared out and the Senate to go into recess. She was taken away by ambulance and was not present for the vote but quickly regained consciousness, according to Senate President Jeb Bradley.

On Thursday, Democratic Senators called attention to a portion of the bill that would require athletes to “provide other evidence” of their gender if they cannot locate their birth certificate or it does not include their gender.

Criticizing the language for what would happen next as “vague [and] potentially dangerous”, Sen. Suzanne Prentiss, a West Lebanon Democrat, speculated about whether students would be forced to endure physical examinations to prove their gender.

Sen. Ruth Ward, a Stoddard Republican and the chair of the Senate’s Education Committee, dismissed those concerns following the vote.

“There are ways of finding out whether you’re a male or a female,” Ward said in an interview. “You can either do a blood test and those kinds of things or if you have to do something else then I would check with coach or the medical physician for the team.”

Meanwhile, a chorus of advocacy organizations immediately criticized the vote and asked Gov. Sununu to veto the bill.

“Governor Sununu has made clear that LGBTQ+ people are valued members of our Granite State community, and we ask him to put an immediate stop to this deeply harmful legislation,” ACLU of New Hampshire police advocate Courtney Reed said in a statement.