Today, Republican state lawmakers proposed legislation that would bar trans athletes from competing in school sports.
The bills, introduced by State Rep. Barbara Dittrich, a Republican from Oconomowoc, would prevent transgender student athletes from participating in women’s sports. Per the proposed legislation, transgender students would be allowed to participate in sports specifically designated as coed.
The so-called “Protecting Women in Sports Act” would apply to trans athletes at every school level — from kindergarten through college.
Speaking at a press conference earlier today, Rep. Dittrich told reporters that trans students’ participation in school sports is detrimental for cisgender athletes — that is, those who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth.
“Biological females are losing opportunities at titles, records, scholarships and even participation at times,” she said. “Parents and athletes throughout my legislative district – who have devoted countless hours to supporting fair competition and athletic excellence – have come to me asking, ‘Representative, what are you going to do about this?’”
The bills have drawn swift backlash from Democratic lawmakers and activist groups across the country.
Rep. Greta Neubauer is a Democrat from Racine and a member of the legislature’s LGBTQ+ caucus. She says that the proposed legislation is a direct attack on Wisconsin’s transgender residents.
“The legislation put forward by Barb Dittrich is cruel and it targets children who are already in vulnerable situations,” Neubauer told WORT. “It attempts to prevent transgender children from participating in the sport according to their gender. Transgender and intersex kids deserve the same rights and opportunities as their peers, including access to sports.”
Neubauer says that the proposed legislation is an attempt by the state’s Republicans to distract Wisconsinites from the pressing issues the state is currently facing.
“When Republicans can’t win on the issues, they introduce bills like this,” Neubauer says. “I think it indicates that Barb Dittrich, and anyone who signs onto this, cares more about spreading their hateful ideology than actually addressing the very pressing problems their constituents face in this ongoing crisis. They know this bill won’t pass, but I think they hope that it will distract people from the fact that they have not taken substantive action on COVID-19.”
Rep. Mark Spreitzer, a Democrat from Beloit, is another member of the state’s LGBTQ+ caucus. He says that defending trans athletes is defending female athletes.
“The bottom line is that transgender girls are girls and transgender women are women and if we want to protect women and girls in sports, then we need to protect opportunities for all women and girls — including transgender people,” Spreitzer says.
Wisconsin’s bills are just the latest in a nationwide wave of legislation aimed at barring trans participation in sports.
Only one state has actually passed similar legislation — Idaho. That bill was temporarily blocked after being challenged in court and a decision on that case is still pending in federal court.
But, according to data from the Human Rights Campaign, 22 similar bans are being floated in at least 17 different states.
Chris Ott is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin. He says Wisconsin’s proposed bills are part of a national, coordinated effort.
“We’re seeing dozens of these bills across the country,” Ott says. “Things like that don’t come together without coordination. One of the things that this reminds me of is what we heard ten or fifteen years ago across the whole country from staunch opponents of equal marriage rights. They claimed that they wanted to “defend marriage,” but what they really wanted was to enshrine discrimination across the country against a group of people that they didn’t understand or like.”
Wisconsin’s proposed bans appear dead on arrival. In a tweet earlier today, Governor Tony Evers indicated that – even if the bills pass the Republican-controlled legislature – they’ll face a swift veto when they hit his desk.
Wrote the Governor: “My message to Wisconsin’s transgender kids and students today is simple: I see you. You are welcome, you are wanted, and you belong.”