Tennessee House Advances Extensions to Last Year’s Prohibition on Transgender Students Playing School Sports Consistent with Gender Identity

by Delphine Luneau

H.B. 2316 /S.B. 2153 Extends Last Year’s Prohibition on Transgender Students Playing School Sports Consistent With Their Gender Identity, Expands That Ban To Colleges Athletics

Human Rights Campaign Condemns Anti-Equality Legislators in Tennessee State House, Demands Governor Bill Lee Veto Harmful Legislation.

TENNESSEE – Today, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — condemned passage by the Tennessee State House of Representatives of H.B. 2316 /S.B. 2153. H.B. 2316 /S.B. 2153, which is now a few signatures away from becoming law, would extend last year’s prohibition on transgender students playing school sports consistent with their gender identity to also apply that ban to colleges. This bill doubles 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 Gov. Bill Lee to veto immediately.

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 the votes:

“Governor Bill Lee and the legislators who are bullying transgender youth for their political gain know better. They know that these are people who are trying to fit in and partake in the social benefits that come from playing sports with their friends and being a part of a team. These politicians are hoping to create and drive wedge issues to divide our families, schools, and communities, from what is truly important. These youth deserve our empathy and compassion, not state-sponsored discrimination. These bills have only created more problems for the state. The Human Rights Campaign strongly urges Gov. Lee to act in the best interest of these youth and veto 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.

In the last three years, anti-LGBTQ groups and politicians have singled out transgender kids to deny them access to gender-affirming medical treatment, prevent them from participating in sports teams consistent with their gender identity, and deny access to bathrooms. 2020 set a record number for anti-transgender bills filed with 79 bills, largely focused on attacking transgender youth; 2021 surpassed that record with 147 such bills filed in 34 states. 2022 is on track to surpass that record yet again. For transgender youth – who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence – to bear the weight of these attacks year after year, this legislation takes a toll. Politicians are culpable for the harms they inflict by continuing to consider bills that target transgender youth.

Already, more than 200 major U.S. corporations have joined together to oppose anti-transgender legislation being proposed in states across the country, including companies like Amazon, Apple, AT&T, AirBnB, Dow, Google, IBM, Lyft, Marriott, Microsoft, Nike, and PayPal. Four of the largest U.S. food companies also condemned “dangerous, discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender and non-binary 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 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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