The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act (HR 734), a bill that would prohibit transgender women and girls from competing on school sports teams consistent with their gender identity.
Members voted 219-203 along party lines for passage of the bill, which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Gregory Steube (R-Fla.) and is the first standalone piece of legislation restricting the rights of trans Americans that has ever been considered by the lower chamber.
The bill would bar student athletes “whose sex is male” from participating in women’s and girls’ athletic programs or activities, provided that “sex” is “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
In anticipation of Thursday’s move by House Republicans, the White House issued a statement Monday vowing to veto the proposal, should it ever reach the president’s desk — an unlikely outcome, considering Democrats’ majority control of the U.S. Senate.
“As gun violence plagues our schools, anti-equality politicians decided the most pressing priority for the House was to ban trans girls of all ages from playing on school sports teams with their friends,” Congressional Equality Caucus Chair Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said in a statement published by the caucus on Thursday.
“Trans girls deserve the same opportunity as all other girls — to be part of a team, learn sportsmanship and challenge themselves,” Pocan said, adding, “I condemn today’s vote to rob trans girls of these opportunities” and “my colleagues who voted for this bill should be ashamed.”
U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), who co-chairs the Equality Caucus, condemned passage of the “dangerous bill that targets transgender and intersex youth for discrimination.”
The bill “is so vaguely written,” Torres said, “that it could force any girl [emphasis original] to undergo invasive medical exams to ‘prove’ their sex and answer deeply personal questions about their bodies and physical development to adults they might not even know.”
LGBTQ, civil liberties groups condemn the bill’s passage (with one exception)
The major LGBTQ and civil rights advocacy groups issued similar statements condemning Thursday’s vote for passage of HR 734:
Julianna S. Gonen, federal policy director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, accused House Republicans of bullying, exclusion, and cruel treatment of trans kids, writing that the GOP caucus had “crossed a dangerous line” and urging “their constituents to hold them accountable.”
“To our legislators, we say: PFLAG families with transgender and nonbinary kids are your relatives and neighbors, your colleagues and friends, your constituents,” said Brian Bond, the group’s executive director. “We will continue leading with love to ensure that all kids are safe, celebrated, empowered and loved so that they can live their best and fullest authentic lives.”
“Young transgender people should not have to watch lawmakers debate their basic humanity,” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis. “Legislators must meet with transgender youth, their families, teammates and coaches who would be harmed by this dangerous legislation; propose ways to protect all youth; and stop pushing anti-LGBTQ discrimination in a phony attempt to protect women and girls.”
House Republicans “know this bill will not become law because President Biden has already signaled his intention to veto it, so this is purely a waste of time at the expense of an already marginalized population,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson.
“We know that attacking trans kids didn’t work in the 2022 election, and it won’t work in 2024 either,” she added.
Casey Pick, the Trevor Project’s Director of Law and Policy, said: “This unfair and unnecessary legislation offers a distorted interpretation of Title IX and a false choice. We can protect the progress women have made in sports and promote fairness, while also fostering the inclusion of transgender women and girls.”
“We will continue to work with the Department of Education to ensure its recently-announced proposed rule on Title IX is implemented in a way that is equitable and effectively combats discrimination,” Pick said.
The agency introduced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Title IX earlier this month. If adopted as written pursuant to a public comment period, the policy would prohibit categorical bans targeting trans student athletes, but — under certain circumstances and provided other conditions are met — would allow schools to adopt criteria whose effect would be to exclude trans individuals from competing.
Voters did not elect Republican members of Congress so they can spend their time bullying children, ACLU National Political Director Deirdre Schifeling said in response to Thursday’s vote, which she called “a cynical attack against some of the most vulnerable youth in our country.”
The ACLU noted more than 450 bills targeting the rights of trans Americans have been introduced in state legislatures so far in 2023. Many have been signed into law, including measures restricting or prohibiting trans students from competing in school sports, of which three are facing legal challenges from the ACLU and its national affiliate network.
One notable exception amid the chorus of condemnation came from the conservative LGBTQ group Log Cabin Republicans, whose president Charles Moran issued a statement applauding the House GOP’s passage of the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act.
Moran characterized the “media opposition” to the bill as “partisan, hostile and misleading,” denied that the vote was “anti-trans,” and committed to “working with Republican lawmakers across the country to pass legislation that respects trans Americans while protecting athletic opportunities for women.”