Indiana lawmakers to weigh bill banning transgender athletes

Indiana lawmakers will consider a Republican-backed bill that would ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity.

The proposal would prohibit students who were born male but identify as female from participating in a sport or on an athletic team that is designated for women or girls. The bill is slated to be heard by the House Education Committee on Monday, committee chair Rep. Bob Behning of Indianapolis said on Wednesday.

Rep. Bob Behning

Behning said the bill “deserves discussion,” adding that a “majority” of House Republicans support the bill.

“It’s just, how do we make sure that we’re … playing fairly in terms of athletics,” Behning said.

Rep. Michelle Davis

The bill, authored by Republican Rep. Michelle Davis of Greenwood, would additionally establish a civil action for violations, and schools wouldn’t be subject to liabilities for complying with it.

The ACLU of Indiana said in a statement Thursday that the bill “sends trans youth the message that they’re not worthy of the same opportunities as their classmates.”

The group also emphasized that trans students “have the right to participate in sports consistent with who they are, just like anyone else.” Denying students that right, the ACLU continued, “is unconstitutional and blatant discrimination.”

If the bill passes the Legislature, Indiana could be the 10th Republican-dominated state to adopt such a ban on transgender women or girls. In two of those states — Idaho and West Virginia — the laws have been halted by federal judges. The U.S. Department of Justice has challenged bans in other states, slamming them as violations of federal law.

At least half a dozen other bills proposed by conservative lawmakers in both chambers of the General Assembly in the current legislative session further seek to limit rights for transgender Hoosiers.

One House bill would prohibit transgender people from using bathrooms that correlate with their gender identity. Another seeks to ban gender changes on birth certificates.

In the Senate, a bill file by Republican Sen. Erin Houchin of Salem would amend Indiana law to clarify that using pronouns that are not consistent with a child’s gender identity is not considered child abuse or neglect.

A separate proposal authored by Republican Sen. Dennis Kruse of Auburn would ban gender affirming medical care for minors, including surgeries or prescribed hormones, regardless of parental approval. However, Kruse told The Indianapolis Star his bill would not be advancing.

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