Human Rights Campaign to North Dakota Lawmakers: “Stop Feigning Concern Over Women’s Sports to Justify Yet Another Attack on Trans Kids”

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 members of the North Dakota House for passing two bills banning the participation of transgender student-athletes in school sports. If signed into law, HB 1249 will explicitly prohibit transgender students - including kindergarteners - from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity, while HB 1489 extends this discriminatory approach to collegiate sports - contrary to decades of NCAA policy.

This legislation is the result of ongoing far-right pressure placed upon lawmakers, spearheaded by national anti-LGBTQ+ organizations and political extremists peddling propaganda and disinformation on social media and other platforms. It is one of hundreds of bills being pushed by national anti-LGBTQ+ organizations across dozens of states.

In response, Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel released the following statement:

“School sports teach the values of leadership, learning, and working together across differences to accomplish something together which no individual can do alone: values that some members of the North Dakota House clearly need a refresher on. Transgender students at all levels of skill have been playing sports consistent with their gender identity for decades, consistent with rules in states across the country which balance fairness and inclusion for everyone. Women’s sports have an important role in the story of equality in this country, and as a cisgender former high school athlete, I know that many real issues face women’s sports - chronic underfunding, lack of access for those who cannot afford to play in expensive travel leagues, unequal pay, lack of attention from the sports establishment, sexual harassment… the list goes on. The legislators promoting these two discriminatory pieces of legislation ought to focus on those real issues rather than caring about women’s sports only long enough to pin its challenges on vulnerable kids who just want to play. When extremist politicians rob transgender students of these formative experiences and isolate them from their peers for no other reason other than they’re transgender, it is discrimination, plain and simple. To this hypocrisy, we have a simple but direct response: stop feigning concern over women’s sports to justify yet another attack on trans kids.”

Cathryn Oakley, HRC State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel

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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