House Republicans pass ban on transgender athletes competing with women, girls

The GOP had made passing the ban for school sports teams a key campaign promise.

April 20, 2023, 12:38 PM

House Republicans passed first-of-its-kind federal legislation on Thursday to ban transgender athletes from competing on school sports teams with women and girls -- a political messaging priority for the GOP despite the bill having no chance of passing the Senate and facing a presidential veto threat.

Outside the Capitol, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy lauded the "Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act" after the bill passed by a 219-203 vote along party lines.

"This is a great day for America, and a great day for girls and women, and for fairness in sports," McCarthy said. "House Republicans pledged before the last election or commitment to American women and girls in sports. Today we kept that," he added.

The bill would change Title IX's definition of sex to one "based solely on a person's reproductive biology and genetics at birth." Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., introduced the legislation in February after it failed to pass out of committee during the last two sessions of Congress, when Democrats controlled the House.

PHOTO: Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy celebrates passage in the House of a bill that would bar federally supported schools and colleges from allowing transgender athletes at the Capitol in Washington, April 20, 2023.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy celebrates passage in the House of a bill that would bar federally supported schools and colleges from allowing transgender athletes whose biological sex assigned at birth was male to compete on girls or women's sports teams at the Capitol in Washington, April 20, 2023.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

"House Republicans today passed this bill to protect the safety and fairness that we should have in women's sports and to make sure that no female athlete is ever forced to compete against a biological male, period," said House Majority Whip Rep. Tom Emmer as he stood with McCarthy and other GOP leaders.

Inside the Capitol, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries slammed the bill as an example of Republicans "trying to sensationalize an issue that doesn't really exist in the way that they are falsely portraying."

"The NCAA already has a policy as it relates to this issue, so does the International Olympic Committee, so does the Track and Field Association, and many high school athletic associations have this issue addressed," he said. "So what this is about, again, extreme MAGA Republicans doing everything possible to jam their right-wing ideology down the throats of the American people."

Jeffries also warned of the potential consequences the legislation could have on the well-being of transgender children.

"I believe in the fundamental goodness and decency and integrity and respectfulness of the American people. And for me, this is not about politics. This is about being there for all of America's children, including transgender children, who just want to be able to live and to belong and to make friends," he said.

House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries gives a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 30, 2023.
Tom Brenner/Reuters, FILE

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, reacting to the bill's passage on Thursday said House Republicans "should be ashamed of themselves."

"Right now, gun violence is the number one cause of death to American children, yet extremist lawmakers ignore this reality to push bills that further endanger and isolate LGBTQ youth who just want to be themselves and play with their friends," Ellis said in a statement. "Young transgender people should not have to watch lawmakers debate their basic humanity. Legislators must meet with transgender youth, their families, teammates, and coaches who would be harmed by this dangerous legislation; propose ways to protect all youth; and stop pushing anti-LGBTQ discrimination in a phony attempt to protect women and girls. Protect all kids and let them play."

The bill is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the White House has also warned that President Joe Biden would veto the legislation if it made it to his desk.

"As a national ban that does not account for competitiveness or grade level, H.R. 734 targets people for who they are and therefore is discriminatory," the White House said in a statement Monday. "Politicians should not dictate a one-size-fits-all requirement that forces coaches to remove kids from their teams."

Still, the move serves as a messaging bill for House Republicans who are working to highlight LGBTQ issues, as states across the country try to pass similar bills restricting transgender athletes from participating in school sports.

"We kept our promise," McCarthy said. "Last year we pledged if we had the opportunity to be in the majority we would bring this bill forward. We would stand up for fairness. We would stand up for you. We would stand up for Title XI. That’s exactly what we did today."

Since 2020, at least 21 states have enacted laws or policies that ban transgender athletes from playing on school sports teams with women and girls, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

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