The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act has divided opinion

RALEIGH, NC — A bill to legislate who can and cannot participate in elementary school sports in North Carolina is moving forward on Jones Street in Raleigh.

what you should Know

  • The North Carolina Senate’s Equity in Women’s Sports Act bill will move to a rules committee
  • The bill would only allow girls who were born girls to compete in high school and middle school sports
  • Sponsors say the bill maintains a level playing field by preventing young women who are transgender from competing
  • Katie Jennifer, a parent of a child who has transitioned, says the bill could have catastrophic consequences

The intent behind Senate Bill 631, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, is to allow competition only between girls who were born girls — not transgender students who became girls. The bill will be referred to a rules committee.

Those who supported the bill said it was about protecting young women from unequal conditions. Those against it say it unfairly targets transitioning or transgender girls.

People on both sides of the issue, including lawmakers, advocates, educators and parents, are divided.

One of the sponsors of the bill is Republican Senator Kevin Corbin.

“It would be unfair to our students if we ignored some of the biological realities that have a measurable impact on outcomes,” Corbin said.

Daniel Parrish is a teacher who shared his thoughts during public comment. Parrish said the bill won’t actually protect young women the way supporters and the legislation’s creators hope.

“If you’re trying to protect women’s sport, that’s not the right protection scheme. What you want to do to protect and grow women’s sport is to increase funding,” Parrish said.

The bill read in part: “Each team shall be expressly designated by the biological sex of the team members.”

Sharon Sullivan is an advocate for the North Carolina Family Policy Council who made her wishes known.

“Without the protections provided by this bill, some sports for women and girls will be dominated by biological male athletes and will also deprive women of their rightful titles, records and scholarships,” Sullivan said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt has also been vocal about how she feels.

“I believe in protecting the integrity of women’s sports,” Truitt said.

Truitt said he believes the bill would not infringe Title IX freedoms. Title IX was created as an education amendment in 1972 to protect people from discrimination based on sex.

“We can respect individual gender preferences without remaking Title IX to disadvantage women,” Truitt said.

On the flip side is how some parents of transgender children feel.

Katie Jennifer is the mother of a fully transitioned daughter who loves cheerleading for her school, but wonders how much her future will be in jeopardy.

“This is not the issue we should be talking about. This is absurd,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer said she doesn’t need this legislation and said her child relies on athletics to keep her interested in school.

“My child, the only reason he likes school or wants to go to school is for social reasons. With the social aspects of the sport, to have that taken away from her would be devastating,” Jennifer said.

Another sponsor of the bill is Republican Sen. Vicki Sawyer of Iredell County.

“I remember when I missed the last half of a championship basketball game because I had to run to the bathroom,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer said that as a former youth athlete, she thinks it’s hard enough for a woman to overcome her own bodily functions without allowing players who weren’t born female to compete on the playing field.

“This bill is not anti-trans. It’s about being pro-woman,” Sawyer said.

The question is not so simple for Jennifer. She said that because of the importance in their family, she became an attorney in 2020 to advocate for trans youth in the state.

“I cannot stress this enough. Lives will be lost. Children will die if these bills pass,” Jennifer said.

An identical bill will go before a House committee on Wednesday. If either bill becomes law, it would go into effect in the next calendar school year.

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