Indiana lawmakers move forward with bill banning transgender girls from girls sports

·7 min read

Indiana lawmakers voted Monday to move forward with a bill that would ban transgender girls from playing girls sports at the K-12 level.

After several hours of contentious testimony, eight Republicans on the House education committee voted in favor of House Bill 1041, which prohibits transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams. Originally, the bill applied to sports at both the K-12 and collegiate level, but it was amended Monday to take out language regarding post-secondary institutions.

The bill’s author, Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland, said the bill is about protecting girls athletics from the threat posed by transgender girls, who could have a biological advantage that will cause cisgender girls to lose out of the opportunity to play or compete on a even playing field.

“The purpose of this bill is to maintain fair competition in girls sports, now and in the future,” Davis said.

More: CDC study: booster shot needed to protect against omicron

More: Indiana schools buckling under weight of eye-popping new record for COVID-19 cases

LGBTQ activists and other community members listen to public testimonies surrounding House Bill 1041 on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. The bill, which moves next to the House floor, prohibits transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams at the K-12 level.
LGBTQ activists and other community members listen to public testimonies surrounding House Bill 1041 on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. The bill, which moves next to the House floor, prohibits transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams at the K-12 level.

Opponents of the bill said it would discriminate against trans youth, preventing them from having the same opportunities as their cisgender peers.

During a public hearing on the bill Monday, the first on the issue at the Indiana Statehouse this year, there was a lot of discussion about the physiological differences between “biological males” and “biological females." There concerns about what kind of advantage that could give trans girls in athletic competition and been fueled by a handful of high-profile examples of trans women dominating at elite levels of women’s sports.

Opponents, though, say that this bill addressing only athletics in K-12 schools doesn’t speak to those situations. Instead, they say, it will ban the state's entire population of trans girls from participating in school sports.

Girls like Nathaniel Clawson's nine-year-old daughter.

Clawson said she's started volleyball clinics and wants to play sports like her older siblings. His daughter is trans, though, and would be barred from playing girls sports should HB 1041 pass — even though she won't go through male puberty. They’ll put her on hormone blockers, he said, when developmentally appropriate.

“This bill will discriminate against my daughter and the whole group of trans kids coming up right now,” Clawson said.

IHSAA already has a policy

LGBTQ advocates say the bill seeks to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

Davis said she’s aware of one instance where a K-12 female athlete was excluded from playing sports because a transgender girl’s participation. She estimated there are more than 60,000 girls in K-12 sports.

Parents of some of those children are concerned about the impact the inclusion of trans girl could have on their daughters.

Heather Ruble has four children, two boys and two girls, who are all competitive swimmers. While her daughters were able to go to college to swim, she said, she’s worried that younger girls won’t have the same opportunity if “biological males continue to be allowed to grab those spots.”

“A vote for House Bill 1041 is a vote for my daughters, their teammates and the thousands of women and girls who deserve the right to fair play,” she said.

The Indiana High School Athletics Association does have a policy in place to govern the participation of transgender athletes in participating schools. For transgender youth to compete on a high school team in Indiana that matches their gender identity, IHSAA rules require they prove they have been living as the gender they identify with for at least a year.

Transgender girls must have “completed a minimum of one year of hormone treatment related to gender transition or undergone a medically confirmed gender reassignment procedure,” the policy says.

Paul Neidig, IHSAA commissioner, questioned the necessity of the bill Monday when there is already a policy in place. The policy, he said, is created and amended with the consultation of medical professionals.

Mental health risks

Advocates for the LGBTQ community, the bill will negatively impact the mental health of trans youth — a population that’s already at greater risk for suicidal ideation than their cisgender peers. Several parents of transgender kids testified about the mental health challenges their kids have faced and asked the committee to consider not just the potential impact on girls’ sports, but the harm that could come from excluding trans girls.

Anna Sutter, an Indianapolis middle school counselor, said she constantly worries about the mental health of her students and fears she'll get a call that one of them has died by suicide. For her trans students, she said, the worry is doubled.

“They’re just trying to be children,” she said. “They’re just trying to play. They're just trying to belong. They're just trying to stay alive.”

Rep. Michelle Davis, who authored House Bill 1041, presents the bill during a House education committee meeting on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. Eight Republicans on the House education committee voted in favor of the bill, which prohibits transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams. Originally, the bill applied to sports at both the K-12 and collegiate level, but it was amended Monday to take out language regarding post-secondary institutions.
Rep. Michelle Davis, who authored House Bill 1041, presents the bill during a House education committee meeting on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. Eight Republicans on the House education committee voted in favor of the bill, which prohibits transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams. Originally, the bill applied to sports at both the K-12 and collegiate level, but it was amended Monday to take out language regarding post-secondary institutions.

Advocates said that bills like HB 1041, one of several filed this session targeting the transgender community, harm the entire trans community.

“This bill trivializes what our family has gone through for the last four years,” said Rebecca Minton, a mother of two from Clarksville in southern Indiana.

Minton said her son, a 15-year-old trans boy, gets called names on a daily basis, has been threatened with sexual assault and is ostracized by his peers and teachers. They worry about his mental health “every single day,” she said.

HB 1041 follows the suit of similar bills

Barbara Ehardt, a Republican state representative in Idaho, came to support the bill. She sponsored similar legislation in her state, the first in the nation to pass a similar ban for transgender athletes, and urged Indiana to follow suit. Since Idaho passed its bill, nearly a dozen other states have followed suit and two dozen others have attempted to do the same, according to the U.S. News and World Report.

Idaho’s bill was passed in 2020 but has yet to take effect. It’s been tied up in legal battles since its passage.

Should it pass, HB 1041 is also likely to see legal challenges. After Monday’s vote, the ACLU of Indiana said it would pursue legal action should the provision be signed into law.

Kit Malone, advocacy strategist for the ACLU of Indiana, speaks at a "Protect Trans Youth" rally Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. The bill prohibits transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams at the K-12 level. Eight Republicans on the House education committee voted in favor of the bill, which will move next to the House floor.
Kit Malone, advocacy strategist for the ACLU of Indiana, speaks at a "Protect Trans Youth" rally Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. The bill prohibits transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams at the K-12 level. Eight Republicans on the House education committee voted in favor of the bill, which will move next to the House floor.

“Obviously, I'm dispirited,” said Kit Malone, advocacy strategist for the ACLU of Indiana, “after all the compelling testimony about the harm that this would do to trans kids, to go ahead and continue to advance a bill that is clearly unconstitutional, violates civil rights law, just really in order to demonize children who just want to play sports in their schools to solve a problem but that doesn't exist anywhere in the state of Indiana… it’s hard to describe how disappointing that is to me, both as an advocate who cares about kids, a former teacher and as someone who is trans.”

The ACLU sponsored a rally in support of trans youth at the Statehouse Monday morning, ahead of the bill’s committee hearing. Malone said the group would continue to watch the bill closely, oppose it and give trans youth and their families opportunities to be heard by lawmakers.

After Monday's vote, the House chamber briefly erupted as several members of the public watching the hearing from the gallery shouted profanities and “shame on you” at the members who supported the bill. Statehouse security ushered them out of the gallery for violating decorum rules.

Davis was joined by fellow Republicans Fort Wayne Rep. Martin Carbaugh, Noblesville Rep. Chuck Goodrich, Bremen Rep. Jack Jordan, South Bend Rep. Jake Teshka, Indianapolis Rep. Bob Behning, Lizton Rep. Jeffrey Thompson and Cicero Rep. Tony Cook in supporting the bill. Three Democrats on the committee — Indianapolis Rep. Ed DeLaney, Terre Haute Rep. Tanya Pfaff and Lafayette Rep. Sheila Klinker — opposed the bill, as did Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany.

The bill will move next to the House floor.

Call IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron at 317-201-5620 or email her at Arika.Herron@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana House bill banning transgender girls from sports moves forward

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting