President Joe Biden’s transgender agenda is encountering a growing backlash across the US, with the latest move seeing Mississippi‘s governor ban transgender athletes from competing on girls’ sports teams.
Republican governor Tate Reeves this week signed a bill requiring the state’s schools to designate teams by sex assigned at birth, saying it would “protect young girls from being forced to compete with biological males for athletic opportunities.”
Mississippi is one of more than 20 states proposing restrictions on athletics or gender-confirming health care for transgender minors as conservative lawmakers push back against an executive order issued by Mr Biden that bans discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere.
The president’s push to expand transgender rights has deeply divided Republicans and liberals and has become a key political flashpoint.
Senate Republicans have raised the topic repeatedly during confirmation hearings, with Senator Rand Paul questioning Rachel Levine, the administration’s nominee for assistant health secretary, on transgender medical treatments.
Supporters of bills such as the one in Mississippi argue that transgender girls, because they were born male, are naturally stronger, faster and bigger than those born female. Opponents say such proposals violate federal education law prohibiting sex discrimination as well as rulings by the US Supreme Court.
Alliance Defending Freedom praised the new bill. “When we ignore science and biological reality, female athletes lose medals, podium spots, public recognition, and opportunities to compete,” Christiana Holcomb, an attorney for ADF, said in a statement.
Alphonso David, president of the LGBTQ civil rights organisation Human Rights Campaign, countered that he believed it could lead to more bullying of transgender people.
“This law is a solution in search of a problem, and legislators in Mississippi have not provided any examples of Mississippi transgender athletes gaming the system for a competitive advantage because none exist,” Mr David said.
Lawyers were in a US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal last week arguing against federal mandates that would violate conscience rights and force hospitals and doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries, including on minors, against their religious beliefs.
The culture war seems to be a winning issue for Republicans, said Dan Cox, the director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life.
“On the Democratic side, however, this is not an issue that really excites the base,” Mr Cox told Axios. “But on the right, I think these issues are really, really salient, so it tends to fire up folks disproportionately on the right than the left.”