Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed legislation barring biological males who think they are women from competing in girls and women’s sports. Mississippi became the second state to pass legislation protecting girls and women’s athletics; Idaho passed the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” in March 2020.
The new law applies to all the state’s schools and universities. Its language restricts men’s and women’s sports to biological men and biological women, saying, “Athletic teams or sports designated for ‘females,’ ‘women’ or ‘girls’ shall not be open to students of the male sex.”
The Mississippi bill passed the House by a vote of 81-28 and cleared the Senate by a vote of 34-9.
Back in February, Gov. Reeves tweeted about the importance of sports for his own daughters: “If there’s one thing that we are passionate about in the Reeves family, it’s my daughters’ sports. I know that the lessons learned through team sports have led to so many successful lives and careers for women and have truly helped provide a more equal opportunity for success.”
In a series of tweets, Reeves questioned why politicians were “pushing children into transgenderism in the first place” and why politicians would “force young girls … to compete with biological males for access to athletics.”
In a signing ceremony, Reeves said, “But for the fact that President Biden as one of his first initiatives sat down and signed an executive order – which, in my opinion, encourages transgenderism amongst our young people – but for that fact, we wouldn’t be here today.”
The governor was referring to Biden’s “Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation,” signed on January 20, 2021. The order told all federal agencies to redefine “sex” in nondiscrimination laws to include “sexual orientation and gender identity” – including Title IX laws that prohibited discrimination based on sex in education.
In 1972, of course, when Title IX was passed, “sex” referred to being male or female – not to how people were sexually attracted or how they identified.
While the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) does not control schools – those are controlled by states, which then delegate authority to local school boards – the DOE does control federal funds which go to states and local districts through a variety of programs. And federal agencies, like the DOE and the Department of Justice, can also pursue discrimination claims against local schools and pressure schools to allow gender-confused children to play on sports teams – and use restrooms and locker rooms – of the opposite sex.
Under the Trump administration, the DOE supported three Connecticut girl athletes who sued the state when boys who identify as girls began taking opportunities and medals in girls track. Following Biden’s executive order, the DOE reversed its support for those girl athletes.
LGBT activist groups were quick to denounce Mississippi’s new law. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said, “Governor Reeves’ eagerness to become the face of the latest anti-transgender push is appalling, as he chooses fear and division over facts and science. … Like previous iterations of the same anti-equality fight, this law is bound to face scrutiny, legal challenges, and ultimately hurt the state’s reputation. Transgender kids deserve better and so does Mississippi.”
David was referring to Idaho’s law, which has been challenged in court by the ACLU and other legal groups. A federal district court granted a preliminary injunction against the legislation. The case has been appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) representing two collegiate athletes in the case.
Lambda Legal, an LGBT activist legal group, also condemned the Mississippi law. Senior Attorney and of Lambda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project, Sasha Buchert, a man who lives as a woman, said the bill was “harmful and dangerous” and that “trans girls playing alongside their peers is not a threat to girls and women’s sports.”
ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb praised the signing of the legislation, saying, “Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Allowing males to compete in girls’ sports destroys fair competition and athletic opportunities for women. … When we ignore science and biological reality, female athletes lose medals, podium spots, public recognition, and opportunities to compete. We thank Mississippi’s elected leaders for promoting a solution where girls across the state will not face these losses and can continue to pursue their dreams.”
South Dakota passed an “Act to promote continued fairness in women’s sports,” and Governor Kristi Noem is expected to sign the legislation soon. At least a dozen more states have similar bills to protect girls and women’s sports in the works.
Photo from FPA