TENNESSEE – Today, the Tennessee Senate passed two pieces of legislation extending last year’s prohibition on transgender students playing school sports consistent with gender identity: Senate Bill 2153, which moves to the House for consideration, and Senate Bill 1861, which will head to the governor’s desk for signature or veto. SB 1861 would restrict funding to schools that allow transgender youth to compete in sports consistent with their gender identity. SB 2153 would extend last year’s prohibition on transgender students playing school sports consistent with their gender identity to also apply to colleges. These bills are a discriminatory and harmful doubling down on the discriminatory and harmful law that the state already has in place, and it demonstrates that the state legislature’s disapproval of transgender youth has motivated them to single out transgender youth for discriminatory treatment again and again. The Human Rights Campaign strongly opposes both bills and is calling on the Senate to stop SB 2153 and Gov. Bill Lee to veto SB 1861.
Transgender students, like all students, benefit from participating in school athletics, and allowing transgender youth to participate in athletic activities consistent with their gender identity in no way disadvantages their fellow students. In fact, the purposes of school athletics programs are very much supported by including transgender athletes. Further, attempting to separate transgender youth from their peers is impractical, unfair, and unnecessary – not to mention contrary to the requirements of federal civil rights law and the United States Constitution. This bill is a continuation of that attack and is similarly unnecessary and motivated by dislike and misunderstanding of transgender youth. This bill is nothing more than an attempt to publicly ostracize, demonize, and harm transgender children who only want to play.
Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley released the following statement in reaction to today’s votes:
“Tennesseans deserve better than legislators who are seeking to bully transgender youth with politically motivated bills for the sake of discrimination itself. These are young people who are simply trying to play sports with their friends and be part of a team, yet these politicians are using them to fearmonger and create division. Last session’s prohibition of transgender students playing school sports was itself an unncessary and discriminatory piece of legislation, which created many issues and solved none. This is only creating more problems. The Human Rights Campaign strongly urges Gov. Lee to veto SB 1861 and for the House of Representatives to cease movement on SB 2153.”
Already, Republican governors Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah and Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana both vetoed similar bills in their states this legislative session, rejecting discriminatory anti-transgender sports bans approved by their state legislatures.
Across this country, a record number of anti-transgender bills were filed in 2021, largely focused on denying transgender youth the ability to receive gender-affirming care and participate in school athletics programs. Even more anti-transgender legislation is on track to be filed in 2022. There are more than 320 anti-LGBTQ+ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country. Of those, at least 140 directly target transgender people and approximately half of those (75+ bills) would ban trans youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity. The Justice Department issued a letter last week to all state attorneys general reminding them of federal constitutional and statutory provisions that protect transgender youth against discrimination.
Anti-Transgender Attacks As A Political Talking Point
Legislators in a record 34 states introduced 147 anti-transgender bills in 2021, focusing on discriminatory anti-equality measures to drive a wedge between their constituents and score short-term political points. In 2021, legislators in twelve states enacted anti-LGBTQ+ bills despite failing to provide examples of what exactly they were legislating against.
Merely introducing anti-transgender bills and peddling anti-transgender rhetoric has already had a damaging impact, leading to LGBTQ+ youth resources being surreptitiously removed from a government website, 11-year old kids literally having trouble sleeping, and a school district banning graphic novels with a transgender character after a parent's complaint. 2021 and 2020 were the deadliest and second deadliest years on record for trans & gender non-conforming people respectively, with the Human Rights Campaign tracking at least 50 violent deaths in 2021 alone. A new Trevor Project survey shows that a startling 85% of transgender or gender non-binary youth say their mental health has been negatively affected by these legislative attacks.
Anti-transgender content on social media is also a radicalizing issue all by itself. This is in large part because transgender young people are among the most marginalized, voiceless, and defenseless communities in America, and because right-wing arguments play on long-standing mysoginistic, racist, and sexist tropes about gender roles.
Anti-Equality Forces Are Spending Big
These bills are the result of a concerted effort by right-wing organizations that have been battling against LGBTQ+ progress for years. Across recent elections, one of the key anti-equality groups working to turn back decades of LGBTQ+ progress has been the American Principles Project (APP). APP and its chief underwriter Sam Fieler have invested millions of dollars in support of anti-LGBTQ+ candidates. In 2020, APP spent more than $2.6 million in ad spending in support of anti-equality candidates. In Virginia in 2021, APP spent at least $300,000 on digital advertising in support of Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign.
Restoration PAC, run and funded by major anti-LGBTQ+ bankroller Dick Uihlein, spent at least $1.9 million in advertising across Virginia in support of Youngkin and donated $942,000 to the political arm of anti-abortion group Women Speak Out Virginia. Anti-equality group Free to Learn Action launched a $1 million ad campaign spreading widely debunked anti-transgender misinformation in support of Youngkin’s campaign.
Businesses, Advocacy Groups, and Athletes Oppose Anti-Trans Legislation
Almost 200 major U.S. corporations have stood up and spoken out to oppose anti-transgender legislation being proposed in states across the country. Companies like Amazon,, Apple, AT&T, AirBnB, Dell, Dow, Google, IBM, Lyft, Marriott, Microsoft, Nike, and Paypal have objected to these bills. Four of the largest U.S. food companies also condemned “dangerous, discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender and nonbinary people,” and the Walton Family Foundation issued a statement expressing “alarm” at the trend of anti-transgender legislation that recently became law in Arkansas. And more than 60 major companies joined HRC to urge Texas Governor Abbott & elected officials across the country to abandon anti-transgender efforts.
Many are rightly protective of the legacy of women’s sports in this country, and a robust Title IX is central to that legacy. Importantly, advocates for women and girls in sports – such as the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports, and others – support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports. So do prominent female athletes including 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.
The nation’s leading child health and welfare 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.
Nearly 550 college athletes have stood up to anti-transgender legislation by demanding the NCAA pull championships from states that have enactedanti-trans sports laws.
Trans Equality Is Popular Across All Demographics
The reality is that however sensational and polarizing this issue may seem, public opinion polling across the country show strong support for trans-inclusive and pro-equality policies:
Recent PRRI data shows a large majority of Americans (82%) favor laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, and majorities of Republicans (67%), independents (85%), and Democrats (92%) favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.
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.
In a 10-swing-state poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group in 2020 showed:
At least 60% of Trump voters across each of the 10 swing states say transgender people should be able to live freely and openly.
At least 87% of respondents across each of the 10 swing states say transgender people should have equal access to medical care, with many states breaking 90% support
When respondents were asked about how they prioritized the importance of banning transgender people from participating in sports as compared to other policy issues, the issue came in dead last, with between 1% and 3% prioritizing the issue.
Another 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.”
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
To make a general inquiry, please visit our contact page. Members of the media can reach our press office at: (202) 572-8968 or email email@example.com.