Missouri House, Senate GOP push to ban transgender athletes

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Republican state lawmakers on Thursday pushed to restrict transgender children's participation in sports, with the House passing a ban and the Senate debating a bill to strip funding from schools that allow transgender girls to play with other girls.

House members voted 95-46 on mostly partisan lines to require transgender public school students to play on teams that match the “biological sex” listed on their birth certificates.

No lawmakers spoke in favor of the bill during debate Thursday. Republican proponents have pitched the ban on transgender girls in girls' sports as a matter of fairness, arguing that boys have a physical advantage over girls.

The House also on Thursday voted 96-47 to pass legislation that would allow local school districts to call local elections on whether to ban transgender girls from girls' sports teams.

A handful of Republicans voted against the two House bills, which now head to the GOP-led Senate for debate. Lawmakers face a May 13 deadline to pass legislation.

Meanwhile, senators debated a proposal that would pull funding from public schools that allow transgender girls to compete on sports teams with other girls starting in middle school.

The role of transgender athletes in sports is gaining traction as a GOP talking point this election year. Political observers say it’s a classic strategy of finding a “wedge issue” that motivates a political base.

Democratic Rep. Ian Mackey, who is gay, on Thursday said it “hurts like nothing else I’ve ever experienced in this job” to see some of his friends in the Legislature vote in favor of the proposals, which he called personally offensive.

“There is gray area on how to treat human beings,” Mackey said. “There is no gray area when it comes to equality."

Missouri’s current public high school sports rules already prohibit transgender girls from competing on girls teams unless they’re undergoing hormone therapy. Transgender boys can play on boys' teams without undergoing treatment.

In the past decade, the Missouri State High School Activities Association has allowed three transgender male students to play on boys' teams and two transgender girls to play on girls' teams.

“It’s time for politicians to quit bullying children based on who they are, and start to focus on solving real issues that impact families,” said Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of the Missouri LGBTQ advocacy group PROMO, in an email. “These bills are a solution in search of a problem.”

Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press

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