Human Rights Campaign Condemns North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum for Signing Two Anti-Transgender Sports Bans into Law

by Cullen Peele

Bismarck, ND - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, condemned North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum for signing into law two bills banning the participation of transgender student-athletes in school sports. HB 1249 will explicitly prohibit transgender students from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity, while HB 1489 will extend this discriminatory approach to collegiate sports - contrary to decades of NCAA policy. They were advanced by the legislature on April 3, along with eight other anti-LGBTQ+ bills, creating an unprecedented slate of anti-equality legislation passed in a single day.

The governor also signed another anti-LGBTQ+ piece of legislation into law on Monday. The bill, HB 1139, will now create an additional rule for gender markers on birth certificates designed to discriminate against transgender people.

Governor Burgum had the opportunity to truly be courageous and to stand up for the well-being of a marginalized group of children who have long been the subject of shame and stigma. And yet, he gave into the extremist demands of power-hungry legislators who are failing to focus on the real issues facing their communities and the constituents they serve. Make no mistake, this has never been about the protection of women’s sports, which continue to be plagued with chronic underfunding, unequal pay, and a lack of attention from the sports establishment, along with rampant sexual harassment. In reality, this is about lawmakers manufacturing issues in order to sanction discrimination against transgender people under the law and to appeal to the far fringes of their political base. Transgender North Dakotans aren’t going anywhere and we will keep fighting back for as long as these attacks continue.”

Cathryn Oakley, State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel

North Dakota now joins Kansas and Wyoming as part of a growing group of states that have passed laws prohibiting transgender students from school sports. The two bills signed by Governor Burgum also come days after the Biden Administration issued proposed rules affirming that Title IX protects transgender students from discrimination in athletics and that state laws banning participation of transgender athletes are violations of federal law.

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.

In 2022, lawmakers introduced 80 bills aimed to prevent transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law. 19 states exclude transgender athletes in school sports.

For more information, please access the following resources on HRC’s website:

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