Anti-Transgender Sports Bans Violate New Proposed Title IX Rules

by HRC Staff

SCOTUS Upholds Injunction Allowing West Virginia Trans Student to Continue to Play

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — responded today to the announcement that the U.S. Department of Education has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that affirms that Title IX protects transgender students from discrimination in athletics and that state laws banning participation of transgender athletes are violations of federal law. The NPRM is subject to a 30 day comment period and may be refined before becoming final.

The proposed rule comes the same day that the Supreme Court refused to reinstate a West Virginia law that would bar transgender athletes from playing on female sports teams from middle school through college, therefore allowing the plaintiff, a trans girl named Becky, to continue to play sports consistent with her gender identity. It also comes as LGBTQ+ people are under attack in statehouses across the country, with more than 470 anti-LGBTQ+ bills having been introduced in statehouses across the country in 2023. Nineteen states currently exclude transgender youth from playing on sports teams aligning with their gender identity.

“State lawmakers take note -- discriminating against transgender athletes is wrong and a violation of federal law. This new rule makes that abundantly clear ,” said Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “Every student deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. This includes transgender girls of all ages and in all sports, without exception. The new rule should be clarified to ensure that all transgender students should be presumed eligible to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity. This moment we’re in is truly a crisis for transgender young people -- and we’re calling on elected leaders at every level of government to fight harder for our kids. For all of us who believe in equality and justice for all, we should be relentless in our work to undo the harms that have already been done and our pursuit of a better tomorrow.”

Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign

More than 190 of the anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2023 would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date. In 2022, 80 bills aimed to prevent transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity.

In an opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, Bostock v. Clayton County cemented the legal interpretation that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are forms of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Accordingly, last June, the Department of Education released an NPRM to reverse May 2020 changes to Title IX that limited federally funded educational institutions’ obligation to address sexual harassment and assault and to update the rule to reinforce protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. That NPRM did not address athletics.

A majority of Americans oppose discriminatory bills seeking to ban transgender and non-binary youth from participation in sports. A PBS/NPR/Marist poll states that 67% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, oppose the anti-transgender sports ban legislation proliferating across 30 states. And a poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group revealed that, with respect to transgender youth participation in sports, the public’s strong inclination is on the side of fairness and equality for transgender student athletes. 73% of voters agree that “sports are important in young people’s lives. Young transgender people should be allowed opportunities to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.”

Advocates for women and girls in sports support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports. This includes the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports, and others — including prominent female athletes like Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe, and Cheryl Reeve. That’s because while there are real issues facing women’s sports, including a lack of resources devoted to supporting them, transgender participation in athletics is not one of them. And nearly 550 college athletes have stood up to anti-transgender legislation by demanding the NCAA pull championships from states that have enacted anti-trans sports laws.

The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups oppose sports bans. Groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1,000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ+ people, and transgender children in particular.

Header photo by Emilio Garcia on Unsplash

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