Georgia High School Association Chooses to Discriminate Against Transgender Student Athletes, Issuing Ban Against Competing in High School Sports

by Delphine Luneau

Vote Follows Legislature’s Push Last Month, at Gov. Kemp’s Insistence, to Create Commission Empowered to Ban Transgender Athletes

ATLANTA — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — condemned the decision today by the Georgia High School Association to issue a ban on transgender student athletes from taking part in school sports on teams that conform with their gender identity.

“This unnecessary push to discriminate against transgender student athletes, which appears to have reached its culmination today, deepens Georgia’s troubling track record on these issues and needlessly harms an already vulnerable population,” said Dewayne Johnson, HRC’s Georgia State Director. “The legislative session was on the verge of adjourning last month when Gov. Kemp put his thumb on the scales to bring this topic back up. Now the Georgia High School Association has followed his example in issuing this ban, and the transgender students of Georgia will be the ones to suffer. This is a travesty and should be reversed.”
“This decision is absolutely devastating to families like mine,” said Jen Slipakoff, a Georgia resident and parent of a transgender student. “The cruelty that goes into going after the most vulnerable children is truly astounding. The painful consequences are going to be detrimental to every trans child’s mental health, and they will be negatively impacted for years to come, if not for the rest of their lives. Shame on the GHSA for prioritizing politics over children.”

Today’s decision follows the enactment last month of House Bill 1084, which was amended at Gov. Kemp’s request in the waning hours of the legislative session to include the creation of a commission that would have the power to ban transgender student athletes.

A recent survey showed that 65.1% of LGBTQ+ people in Georgia had reported experiencing depression in the prior two weeks — more than three times the number of non-LGBTQ+ Georgians reporting the same. Politicians are culpable for the harm they cause by subjecting vulnerable youth to continued legislative attacks.

Strong Opposition to Discriminatory Attacks on LGBTQ+ Population

The latest PRRI data show that support for LGBTQ+ rights is on the rise in Georgia and nationwide: 76% of Georgians support nondiscrimination protections, and 59% of Georgians oppose refusal of service on religious grounds. Approximately eight in ten Americans (79%) favor laws that would protect LGBTQ+ people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. This reflects an 11% increase in the proportion of Americans who support nondiscrimination protections since 2015 (71%).

Anti-transgender discrimination in sports is opposed by prominent 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 – which 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.

LGBTQ+ kids have real threats and obstacles to overcome. 86% of LGBTQ+ youth report they have been targets of bullying, harassment, or assault at school. Studies have shown that bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ youth contribute to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement. Kids want to play sports for the same reasons: to be part of a team, to learn discipline, and above all, to have fun with their friends. Kids shouldn’t be banned from sports because of who they are.

A Campaign of Hate Cascading Across the Country

This year, statewide officials in Texas have tried to criminalize transition care for minors, and lawmakers in Alabama are on the verge of passing legislation to do so as well. In Florida, the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill stands to block teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues or people, further stigmatizing LGBTQ+ people and isolating LGBTQ+ kids if it becomes law. Iowa recently became the first state in the country that had passed statewide non-discrimination protections that include LGBTQ+ people to reverse course by prohibiting transgender women and girls from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. And in South Dakota, Gov. Noem proclaimed that it “makes me sad” to hear about high rates of depression among LGBTQ+ people in her state – just days after she signed the first anti-trans bill of 2022 into law.

While the sponsors of these pieces of legislation make disingenuous claims about what their bills will do, their supporters are revealing their true intentions. Advisers and staffers for Republican governors in Florida, Texas and South Dakota, plus a bill sponsor in Iowa, have made public comments this year laying bare that these bills are more about prejudice against transgender people than any real policy position.

Among the organizations supporting Senator Lee’s legislation are a litany of anti-LGBTQ+ organizations, including Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council. The work of these groups includes efforts to criminalize LGBTQ+ relationships, opposing settled law like marriage equality, and even opposing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Businesses, Advocacy Groups, and Athletes Oppose Anti-Trans Legislation

Nearly 200 major U.S. corporations have spoken out to oppose anti-transgender legislation being proposed in states across the country. Companies like Amazon, American Airlines, 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.

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 enacted anti-trans sports laws.

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.”

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.

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