Georgia lawmakers have passed a bill that would empower an athletics committee to exclude trans youth from fully participating in school sports.
Politicians advanced House Bill 1084 (HB 1084) in a last-minute move on Monday (4 April) with the legislation passing just after midnight.
The bill, which also bans the teachings of “certain concepts” in Georgia, was amended to create an “oversight committee” over the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) to determine whether or not trans girls can compete in school sports in the state.
HB 1084 passed in the House with a 98-71 vote and then, shortly after midnight, it passed in the Senate 32-21. The bill now heads to Republican governor Brian Kemp’s desk to veto or sign into law.
House speaker David Ralston said the decision was similar to how the National Collegiate Athletic Association regulates trans participation in sports at higher education institutions, the Associated Press reported.
The Republican said lawmakers will “let” the GHSA and the oversight committee “make those decisions” on whether trans girls and women can play on public school sports teams that align with their gender identity.
Ralston argued this was “really where these determinations need to be made”.
However, representative Matthew Wilson, who is openly gay, argued the bill “targets the most vulnerable Georgians, transgender youth”.
“It sets us up not only to be on the wrong side of history and morality, but on the wrong end of litigation,” Wilson added.
Cathryn Oakley, the Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director and senior counsel, also denounced the legislation as damaging to Georgia’s queer youth. She argued that “everything” about the bill and the “way it was passed” demonstrated an intent by Kemp and Republicans to “evade accountability for hurting Georgia’s transgender youth”.
Oakley also claimed that “punting the decision to a newly created athletics committee” would allow politicians to “pretend their hands are clean once specific, discriminatory policies are put into place”.
“Make no mistake — there is no crisis with transgender youth playing sports in Georgia,” Oakley said. “Decades of experience in states across the country show that this is a non-issue.”
Oakley added that, if Kemp signed the bill into law, he would be “marking himself as someone willing to harm a vulnerable LGBTQ+ population” to “serve his own political ambitions”.
The proposed legislation has also been condemned by Georgia Equality. The LGBT+ rights organisation said the bill poses “great harms” to trans students, and it denounced “any attempt to bar trans athletes from competing as their true selves”.
“While a commission is marginally better than an outright ban, we must denounce the establishment of this oversight committee for what it is – a political attempt to score points on the backs of young people who just want to be left alone, and allowed to play sports with their friends,” Georgia Equality said.
The group added it would be “working closely with our colleagues to determine the best course of action” to protect trans youth in Georgia.
Indiana governor Eric Holcomb vetoed similar legislation in March as he found “no evidence” that the bill would fix an existing issue in the state. He also claimed the bill’s current wording “falls short” of providing a consistent statewide policy, which could leave schools at risk of future lawsuits.
Lawmakers in Indiana could potentially override Holcomb’s veto when they meet in May.