Tennessee governor signs GOP-backed bill on transgender student athletes

The Nashville Tennessean reported Friday that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) had signed into law a new bill requiring student athletes to compete on the school sports teams aligning with the sex they were assigned at birth.

The controversial measure was passed easily in the Republican-dominated state legislature earlier this year, the Tennessean reported.

According to the Washington Examiner, the new rules don’t apply to students in kindergarten through 4th grade.

“Damaging federal policies”

Gov. Lee, for his part, has touted the measure as one that promotes fairness by “eliminating a competitive edge they say transgender women may have over their cisgender peers,” the Tennessean reported.

“I signed the bill to preserve women’s athletics and ensure fair competition,” the governor said in a tweet.

“This legislation responds to damaging federal policies that stand in opposition to the years of progress made under Title IX and I commend members of the General Assembly for their bipartisan work,” he added.

“The benefit is what?”

But critics like the Trevor Project’s Sam Brinton say the law is openly discriminatory against students who are transgender. In a statement to the Tennessean, Brinton likened the move to a “purely political” attack.

Even some Republicans, including Tennessee state Rep. Eddie Mannis, have warned against the measure, arguing it may have more costs than benefits.

“When we look at things like this we need to look at the risk versus the reward, or the cost and benefits, so to speak,” he said, according to WBIR. “The cost is continuing to marginalize, even more, a community and the suicide rate can continue to increase, and the benefit is what? There’s not a measurable problem here.”

A growing trend

According to the Washington Examiner, Tennessee is now the third state in the union to enact such a measure, and some 21 others are said to be considering it.

After signing a similar bill into law last week, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said the legislation aims to help “women compete successfully” in sports including basketball and soccer.

“This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition,” Hutchinson said, according to the Examiner. “As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law. This will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.”

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