Culture & the Family

Ray Carter | March 25, 2022

Transgender sports bill goes to governor

Ray Carter

Legislation that would restrict eligibility for women’s athletic events to biological women has passed the Oklahoma Senate and now goes to Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Senate Bill 2, by state Rep. Toni Hasenbeck and state Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, creates the “Save Women’s Sports Act.” The legislation’s key provision states, “Athletic teams designated for ‘females,’ ‘women’ or ‘girls’ shall not be open to students of the male sex.”

Under SB 2 any student “deprived of an athletic opportunity” or who “suffers any direct or indirect harm as a result” of violations of the Save Women’s Sports Act “shall have a cause of action for injunctive relief, damages and any other relief available permitted by law against the school.” The bill also allows female athletes to sue if they are “subject to retaliation or other adverse action by a school” or athletic association because of reporting a violation of the Save Women’s Sports Act.

That legislation previously passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 73-19 vote during the 2021 legislative session and carried over to receive a vote in the Oklahoma Senate this year. The House also passed a second version of the bill earlier this week.

Supporters said the legislation is needed to protect the ability of female athletes to compete and receive scholarships, saying transgender women—biological males who identify as female—retain physical advantages that give them a significant competitive edge over biological women.

“Men have physical advantages over women. This is not something I need to explain. This is something known to everyone.” —State Sen. Julie Daniels (R-Bartlesville)

“I know women in Oklahoma who have friends who compete in high school and then in college, and there’s a circle of women athletes in different events and they communicate, and they are giving examples to each other where some of them have actually been defeated, lost their NCAA records, lost their titles, lost their college scholarships, because they competed against a male,” said state Sen. Julie Daniels, a Bartlesville Republican who carried the bill on the Senate floor. “So it’s a very real issue.”

Opponents argued against the bill based largely on two points of attack that appeared mutually contradictory. They argued that no transgender athletes are competing in Oklahoma sports and that those same transgender individuals will experience emotional harm as a result of being banned from women’s sports they are not competing in.

Some opponents voiced both arguments during their debate.

State Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, said there “have been zero issues in the state of Oklahoma” and also argued that the bill “will increase the rates of suicidality” and “have a damaging impact on so many families and children in the state of Oklahoma.”

Others questioned the idea that men typically have a physical advantage over women.

“What is the evidence for the idea of categorical dominance by men in these sports?” asked state Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City.

“Men have physical advantages over women,” Daniels replied. “This is not something I need to explain. This is something known to everyone.”

Kirt went on to add, “The idea of biological sex is actually far less clear than this bill implies.”

“I do not see it as an idea,” Daniels replied. “I see it as a fact.”

Kirt also indicated that transgender individuals are attempting to compete in lower elementary-grade sports.

“We are talking about four- and five-year-olds in school,” Kirt said. “We are talking about young people getting the opportunity to play.”

Supporters countered that there are significant mental health concerns not only for transgender individuals, but also for the women who find themselves competing—and losing—against those transgender individuals.

Bergstrom, R-Adair, noted that one of his granddaughters has participated in basketball.

“I don’t want her competing against a guy,” Bergstrom said. “I don’t want any young women to have to go out on the court or in the swimming pool or on the track or anywhere else and compete against someone who has a distinct biological advantage, and should not be competing against that young woman, that young girl. I’d like to avoid the emotional hurt and distress and pain that that causes young women and girls.”

Daniels said attempting to accommodate the wishes of the minority of transgender women to participate in female sporting events translates into “discriminating against the vast majority of women who participate in sports.”

“I want us to be compassionate and accommodating and welcoming and friendly and embracing of all people’s humanity,” Daniels said. “But you do not succeed in that for a very few at the expense of the many. And so there is a point beyond which we cannot accommodate.”

SB 2 passed the Oklahoma Senate on a 37-7 vote. One Democrat joined Republicans in voting for the bill’s passage.

By passing the bill into law, the Oklahoma Legislature rejected the lobbying efforts of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA). When SB 2 was first advanced in 2021, the OSSBA said the proposed ban on transgender athletes in girls’ sports “jeopardizes local control.”

The OSSBA claimed SB 2 was “forcing educators who seek to create strong relationships with students to instead create an environment of exclusion,” and that preventing transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports “means they’ll miss out on important childhood lessons—leadership, teamwork and discipline—and opportunities that are a valuable part of the educational experience.”

SB 2 now goes to the governor to be signed or vetoed.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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