Human Rights Campaign Condemns TN Senate for Passing Anti-Transgender Sports Ban for Private Schools; Would Be TN’s Fourth Anti-Trans Sports Law

by HRC Staff

Nashville, Tennessee — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — condemned the Tennessee Senate’s passage of SB 1237, which would allow private schools to prohibit transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. If enacted, this would be Tennessee’s fourth law restricting the ability of transgender students to participate in school sports. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

Governor Lee has already signed two anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law this year, a ban on age-appropriate, best practice gender-affirming care for transgender youth and a now-enjoined law criminalizing drag performances on public property or any location where people under 18 could be present. Since 2015, Tennessee has enacted more anti-LGBTQ+ laws than any other state in the country, 14 in total so far, including three laws preventing transgender students from playing sports consistent with their gender identity, two bathroom bans, a law allowing discrimination by state contractors providing child welfare services paid for with taxpayer funds, curriculum censorship bills, and more. Tennessee’s attack on LGBTQ+ people has been unrelenting and has made Tennessee an increasingly difficult place for LGBTQ+ people to survive, let alone thrive.

Human Rights State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley issued the following statement today:

“This bill is part of an ongoing radical crusade by some Tennessee lawmakers to marginalize and attack LGBTQ+ youth. Instead of solving the real problems facing Tennessee, the legislature is working to pass its fourth - fourth! - bill restricting transgender students’ ability to participate in sports. It is again - again! - attacking the ability of LGBTQ+ students to feel included in school. The Tennessee legislature cannot, no matter how hard it tries, prevent Tennesseans from being LGBTQ+. It can only hurt those who are. We call on the Tennessee House to reject this unnecessary and harmful bill.”

Transgender activist and volunteer with the Tennessee Equality Project Dahron Johnson released the following statement:

"This law highlights just how out of the way the Legislature will now go simply to exclude and ostracize some children, robbing them of key lessons–about community; perseverance; self-worth–we say sports participation so effectively teaches & provides. In so doing, this law also provides evidence of the lengths to which legislation seeks to steal away any safe space, to remove any safe harbor, for transgender & gender-diverse children, and their families."

The Facts About Anti-Transgender Sports Bans

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:

State Leg Snapshot

So far in 2023, HRC is opposing more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. More than 210 of those bills would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date.

This year, HRC is tracking:

  • More than 120 bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; this year, eleven have already become law in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

  • More than 30 bathroom ban bills filed,

  • More than 100 curriculum censorship bills and 40 anti-drag performance bills.

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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