Controversial legislation prohibiting transgender students born male from competing in most girls’ sports in Georgia cleared the Republican-controlled state Senate Thursday.
The bill, which passed 34-22 along party lines, stems from complaints by parents of biological girls who have quit sports because they don’t want to have to compete against transgendered girls who were born male and, thus, enjoy an unfair advantage in strength and speed, said Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, the measure’s chief sponsor.
“This bill is about fairness,” he said. “It’s simply not fair to force biological girls to compete against biological boys.”
But Senate Democrats argued the legislation stigmatizes transgendered students, a particularly vulnerable group of young people who suffer from a high suicide rate.
“This is hurting our kids,” said a tearful Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta, who is the mother of a transgendered child.
Harrell said the bill is premature, coming at a time when transgendered children aren’t well understood by many.
“Let society deal with this issue for a little while,” she said. “Let the sports associations try to figure it out.”
Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said the measure is politically motivated, part of a conservative agenda Republicans are pushing under the Gold Dome.
“It’s another election-year bill about another fabricated problem,” she said. “Ostracizing vulnerable children to get votes is despicable.”
But Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, said the bill is meant to safeguard the integrity of girls’ sports.
“Women’s sports is one of the greatest tools we have in the fight for gender equality,” he said. “This bill simply protects that tool.”
The bill now moves to the Georgia House of Representatives.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.