The Tennessee House of Representatives on Monday voted 71-16 to approve legislation that would require trans kids to play school sports based on the gender listed on their birth certificate.
The Senate previously passed the legislation, meaning it now heads to Gov. Bill Lee, who has previously expressed support for the idea. A representative for Lee would not answer whether the governor would sign the bill but said he would "defer to the will of the legislature."
Rather than debate the bill, House sponsor Rep. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka) read part of it and when questioned by opposed Democrats repeated a line that the goal of the bill was to “maintain the competitive balance, the safety for girl athletes and opportunities for scholarships.” His focus on female sports elided any impact the legislation could have on male sports.
As both Republican backers and Tennessee sport administrators admitted during previous debate on the bill, no case of a male-to-female trans student participating in Tennessee school sports has been identified.
“This legislation appears to be working its way around the country with no problem to solve, just a point to make,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said.
Clemmons unsuccessfully sought to amend the legislation to make it optional for school districts.
Similar legislation has already passed or is under consideration in half of states. Those opposed to the bill have warned lawmakers that there could be economic consequences for their actions, like when the N.C.A.A. in 2016 decided to pull events from North Carolina after the state legislature there passed a so-called bathroom bill. The N.C.A.A. said it would “closely monitor” bills related to trans athletes, and hundreds of collegiate athletes are urging the organization to stage a similar boycott of states that pass bills like the one the Tennessee House approved Monday night.
Adam Love, a professor of recreation and sport management at the University of Tennessee, said the legislation “further stigmatizes an already marginalized group of children.”
“State lawmakers have a duty to represent all of their constituents, even those whose circumstances they may not understand,” he said. “Unfortunately, rather than creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for children, HB 0003/SB 0228 fosters misplaced fear and divisiveness in our state.”