On Thursday, Governor Tate Reeves of Mississippi signed a bill that bans transgender athletes from competing on women’s and girl’s sports teams, making his state the first to enact such legislation.
The state’s Senate Bill 2536 is one of 147 anti-LGBTQ+ bills currently pending across the country, 73 of which specifically target transgender persons according to data provided by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The bill had passed in the Mississippi Senate in early February, and was subsequently passed in the House last week.
At a ceremony in the state Capitol, Reeves argued that the bill was a necessary step toward counteracting an executive order signed by Biden that expanded anti-discriminatory protections to trans persons. “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 said.
Proponents of the bill argue that it is necessary step to protect cisgender female athletes from competing against trans women and girls, whom they see as biologically male. Opponents, however, have argued that such discrimination violates anti-discriminatory laws afforded under Title IX, and which have subsequently been reinforced by rulings in the the U.S. court system. Opponents of such legislation also argue that proponents have failed to produce any evidence that competing against trans women and girls has in any way negatively impacted their cisgender counterparts.
“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,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement. “The 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.”
In the same statement Rob Hill, HRC Mississippi State Director, added that the bill was a way for lawmakers to avoid the complex realities of Covid-19. “This law does nothing to help the tens of thousands still out of work or the nearly 300,000 who have contracted the virus in the state. What it does is further discriminate against transgender kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence,” he said. “Reeves knows this is not a problem in Mississippi and yet he insists on enthusiastically signing this bill to sow fear and division.”
The bill is set to become law on July 1.