Senate panel advances ban on transgender athletes in Kentucky

Published 9:35 pm Thursday, February 10, 2022

A Kentucky Senate committee advanced a bill Thursday that would bar transgender girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity.

The Republican-led Senate Education Committee approved the measure after hearing impassioned pleas from transgender girls and their parents not to take the action.

The measure moves on to the full Senate next. If the bill ultimately becomes law, Kentucky would join a growing number of Republican-dominated states to adopt such a ban on transgender girls or women, though the bans have been challenged in several states as violations of federal law.

The Kentucky bill would apply to K-12 sports, but its lead sponsor focused on high school athletics, saying it would ensure that girls compete against other “biological females.”

“It would be crushing for a young lady to train her whole career to have it end up competing against a biological male in the state tournament or state finals,” Republican Sen. Robby Mills said.

Under the bill, a student’s gender would be determined by the “biological sex” indicated on the student’s certified birth certificate, Mills said.

Opponents said the bill’s restrictions are unconstitutional. Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, said transgender children don’t deserve “this level of unfair scrutiny and debate over whether or not they should be able to play with their friends and be included in school life.”

The committee heard firsthand accounts from a young transgender girl about how important playing for a middle school field hockey is in her life. Fischer Wells talked about the friends she had made and how much fun she had being part of the team.

“I really don’t want this bill to pass because that means I can’t play and it will be extremely detrimental to my mental health as well,” the youngster said.

She told the committee that playing sports is a “great way for me to cope with things.”

“It’s disgusting that this bill is even suggested,” she said. “It’s terrible. And I worked really hard and practiced so many hours.”

Her mother said her daughter “lights up” on the field hockey field, enjoying the same benefits as her teammates — forming friendships, learning teamwork and building character through hard work.

David Walls, executive director of The Family Foundation, spoke in favor of the bill. He said that allowing males to compete in girls’ sports “destroys fair competition.” The bill provides “common-sense protections” for girls competing in K-12 sports, he said.

The Senate committee voted to advance the bill immediately after hearing from transgender girls and their parents. The bill cleared the panel on a 9-3 vote, with Democrats voting against it.