House approves limits on transgender athletes
Tue, 04/27/2021 - 2:55pm admin
GRACE ZOKOVITCH, MISSOURI NEWS NETWORK
The House dove into the contentious debate over the rights of transgender athletes Wednesday in the process of moving forward an amendment to limit their inclusion in sports.
The amendment, which Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, added onto education bill HB 1141, would prevent any student assigned male at birth from participating in women's sports. Those assigned female at birth who are transitioning could only participate in co-ed sports or those only offered for male students, such as football.
The central issue, transgender access, brought out strong feelings from both sides of the debate.
"This is a very emotional day," said Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin. "It's a very consequential day. Because I think a lot is riding on this to our state's economy. A lot (is) riding in terms of our state's reputation, potentially across the country." Dogan was one of several Republicans who voted against the bill.
Representatives took wildly varying angles on the emotional impact and consequences at play, citing the students’ experiences and the crucible of fairness versus inclusion.
But Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, addressed what she perceives to be the motivation of the amendment.
"This bill is not necessarily about the policy," Quade said. "It's about primaries."
She said that there have been 82 bills dealing with transgender youth in Republican-led states, which points to a strategy of mobilizing specific voters by emphasizing messaging and legislation centered on protecting women.
Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O'Fallon, argued that the issue dealt with safety, citing a specific example in which a female MMA fighter was hurt by a trans athlete and noting that people who develop as males have greater physical capacity to potentially do damage in contact sports.
Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, said these sorts of anecdotes amount to "scare tactics." He noted that, additionally, the legislation wouldn't cover that situation or many contact sports.
Other lawmakers pointed out that the application of this legislation, at this point, was very narrow.
"We're writing a law about one individual child in the state of Missouri," said Rep. Doug Clemens, D-St. Ann, referencing the transgender athlete who is currently playing on the sports team that matches their gender identity while transitioning.
Opponents argued that the even the possibility of transgender kids switching between male and female sports teams created an unlevel playing field, a situation which could impact kids' sense of competitiveness and scholarships.
Advocates said that the mental health concerns and high suicide rates among the LGBTQIA community made issues of inclusion and acceptance more important.
The House passed the bill 100 to 51.