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Bill aims to restrict transgender athletes in Arkansas

Legislation bans biological males who identify as women from female teams by Rachel Herzog | February 23, 2021 at 7:07 a.m.
FILE — In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge speaks to reporters at a news conference in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Legislation that would prohibit transgender athletes from playing on girls' and women's sports teams at schools and postsecondary institutions in Arkansas was introduced by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Monday.

The concurrent House and Senate bills would limit competition in girls and women's sports to athletes assigned the female sex at birth, based on their original birth certificate. The "Gender Integrity Reinforcement Legislation for Sports," or "GIRLS" Act, would apply to both public and private schools.

An executive order signed by President Joe Biden last month aims to prevent discrimination based on gender identity.

"Here in Arkansas, we intend to require schools to prohibit biological boys who self-identify as girls onto girls' sports teams," Rutledge said. "This legislation is aimed at protecting access to athletic opportunities for girls and young women."

The bills' sponsors will be Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and Rep. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio.

"There are differences between men's and women's sports," Irvin said.

Opponents of the bills say they would exclude transgender Arkansans. Willow Breshears with the Center for Artistic Revolution, an LGBTQ civil rights organization based in Little Rock, said most transgender children are participating for recreation and "deserve a fun childhood as much as their cisgender counterparts."

"For the trans kids that are playing on these teams, they are just like every other kid. They want the bond that comes with being on a sports team and they want to spend time with their friends," Breshears said in a written statement.

She added that many young transgender people use puberty blockers and hormones that backtrack the effects of testosterone.

About 20 other states are considering similar proposals, according to a report from The Associated Press last week.

Additionally, state Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, has proposed an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution that would make interscholastic or intramural athletic teams sponsored by a public school expressly designated based on biological sex.

Rutledge, a Republican candidate for governor of Arkansas in 2022, said the proposed amendment "demonstrates the great need to address this issue," but said it couldn't wait and needed to be in state law.

Clark said Monday he would still pursue the amendment while supporting the legislation.

Print Headline: Bill aims to restrict transgender athletes

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