Gabbard sponsors bill banning trans women from women’s college athletics

Controversial legislation introduced this week by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard might prevent transgender athletes from participating in collegiate athletics.

The legislation, introduced Thursday by Gabbard, a Democrat, and Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a Republican, could halt federal funds to organizations that allow transgender or non-binary athletes to participate in athletic programs that do not match their “biological sex at birth.”

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According to the “Protect Women’s Sports Act of 2020,” compliance with title IX — a 1972 federal civil rights law that forbids sex-based discrimination in any school that receives federal funds, and ensures that women’s college athletics programs receive equal support as men’s — should be determined “on the basis of biological sex as determined at birth by a physician.”

Based on the proposed law, transgender women would be prohibited from participating in women’s athletics, and could only participate in men’s athletic programs.

“Title IX was a historic provision championed by Hawaii’s own Congresswoman Patsy Mink in order to provide equal opportunity for women and girls in high school and college sports,” Gabbard said in a statement. “It led to a generational shift that impacted countless women, creating life-changing opportunities for girls and women that never existed before. However, Title IX is being weakened by some states who are misinterpreting Title IX, creating uncertainty, undue hardship and lost opportunities for female athletes.”

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education cited Title IX to allow transgender students to use the restroom or locker room of their chosen gender, although that ruling was rescinded by President Donald Trump.

Patrick Guillen, athletics director for the University of Hawaii at Hilo, said that, to his knowledge, there have been no transgender UH-Hilo athletes since he took his position more than five years ago. Furthermore, during his nine years as athletics director at California State University, Dominguez Hills, the issue of transgender participation in athletics never came up, he said.

However, Guillen said he expects the topic will become more prevalent in the next few years, as awareness of trans issues spreads.

While Title IX was intended to improve parity between women’s and men’s athletic programs at a time when women’s programs were often underfunded compared to men’s, Guillen said about 63% of UH-Hilo’s athletes are women.

“Technically, Title IX doesn’t actually mention a specific sex, it just mentions the underrepresented sex,” Guillen said.

A representative of the UH-Hilo LGBTQ+ Center said she found Gabbard’s bill “appalling and offensive,” particularly as it comes at a time when most schools are relying heavily on distance learning, preventing any cohesive opportunity for students to protest the bill.

Gabbard was widely criticized this week by LGBTQ groups, with the bill viewed as discriminatory against transgender and non-binary students. Delaware Sen. Sarah McBride, the first transgender woman to be elected state senator, called Gabbard an “assigned Republican at birth.”

A statement by the National Center for Transgender Equality accused Gabbard of a long history of discriminatory attacks on LGBTQ people, dating back to the late ‘90s when she worked for a pair of explicitly anti-gay organizations headed by her father, Sen. Mike Gabbard, who spearheaded a 1998 amendment to the state Constitution to limit marriage to heterosexual couples.

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Tulsi Gabbard apologized for her previous anti-LGBTQ views during her failed presidential campaign last year.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

  1. Ron Gillespie December 12, 2020 8:49 am

    Tulsi’s final act as my Representative proves that like Trump she can never be under estimated.


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