The Biden administration’s proposed regulations that would allow schools to ban transgender athletes from participating in competitive sports have received criticism from progressive Democrats and the LGBT community.
The rule was proposed on the same day that the Supreme Court refused to reinstate a West Virginia law that would bar transgender athletes from playing on female sports teams from middle school through college.
The Supreme Court’s decision will allow the plaintiff, a trans girl named Becky, to continue to play sports consistent with her gender identity.
“The proposed rule helps clarify that these blanket bans on transgender athletes are in violation of Title IX and is a really positive development,” said Scott Skinner-Thompson, a supporter of transgender rights and associate professor at the University of Colorado Law School. But he said the provisions allowing for discrimination were “deeply troubling.” “When it comes to the hard cases, this is saying that trans kids can be discriminated against,” he said.
Conservatives are hoping for a proposal that would have clearly permitted blanket bans on transgender athletes such as those enacted in recent months by 20 states.
The proposed regulations would narrow when discrimination of trans athletes would be permitted, but they would offer guidelines for how schools could stop their participation.
Under the proposal, schools would be able to impose a ban on trans athletes if they justify it based on educational grounds, such as the need for fairness.
“Since Title IX was signed into law more than 50 years ago, it has prohibited sex-based discrimination for millions of students across the country and enabled tremendous strides in educational opportunity, including in athletics,” said Lisa McCormick. “Joe Biden has made ambiguity the rule instead of taking a firm stand on one side or the other, in another example of presidential cowardice.”
While the proposed regulations would allow for more nuance in determining whether transgender athletes can participate in sports, critics argue that they could still lead to discriminatory policies.
“To put it mildly, this is extraordinarily disappointing and a total reversal from a position the Biden administration has taken since Day One,” said Mark Joseph Stern, a senior writer covering courts and the law for Slate Magazine.
The regulations would allow schools to impose restrictions on transgender athletes’ participation in competitive high school and college sports, but they would need to justify the restrictions based on educational grounds. Some critics say that this could lead to policies that unfairly target transgender athletes.
“Discriminating against transgender athletes is wrong and a violation of federal law,” said Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Every student deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. This includes transgender girls of all ages and in all sports, without exception.”
“The new rule should be clarified to ensure that all transgender students should be presumed eligible to participate in sports consistent with their gender identity,” said Robinson. “This moment we’re in is truly a crisis for transgender young people — and we’re calling on elected leaders at every level of government to fight harder for our kids. For all of us who believe in equality and justice for all, we should be relentless in our work to undo the harms that have already been done and our pursuit of a better tomorrow.”
A majority of Americans oppose discriminatory bills seeking to ban transgender and non-binary youth from participation in sports.
A PBS/NPR/Marist poll states that 67% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, oppose the anti-transgender sports ban legislation proliferating across 30 states.
A poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group revealed that, with respect to transgender youth participation in sports, the public’s strong inclination is on the side of fairness and equality for transgender student athletes.
Seventy-three percent of voters agree that “sports are important in young people’s lives. Young transgender people should be allowed opportunities to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.”
Advocates for women and girls in sports who support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports include the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports, and such prominent female athletes as Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe, and Cheryl Reeve.
“This proposed rule is a step backward for transgender students, who already face disproportionate barriers to participating in sports,” said Lisa McCormick. “It opens the door to discriminatory bans that would prevent transgender students from fully participating in sports, just because of who they are.”
Progressive Democrats have also expressed concern over the proposed regulations. Representative Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said in a statement that the regulations “send a cruel message to transgender students that they are not welcome in their own schools.”
Marianne Williamson, Biden’s only declared rival for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination, spoke on Friday, March 31 at East Tennessee State University’s Can’t Drag Us Down Drag Show & Story Hour, an event held to protest recent legislation targeting the transgender community in the Volunteer State.
Williamson has been strangely silent in the wake of Biden’s retreat on transgender rights, but she has tried to keep her campaign above the personal fray with a focus on the devolution of America since the Reagan Revolution.
Williamson has discussed her candidacy in a broader historical sense, saying she believes the country needs a “healthy middle class” and an “economic U-turn” but she has always been a steadfast ally to LGBTQ+ citizens, becoming well-known among the community at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.
“Williamson set up shop in a city full of gay men and made quick inroads in the entertainment industry; her message of an all-loving God offered a new home for gays who’d been rejected by their families or faith traditions,” wrote Christina Cauterucci in a 2020 Slate story. “When Williamson founded a meal-delivery nonprofit serving AIDS patients [Project Angel Food, still in operation] and began leading AIDS support groups, her popularity among gay men grew.”
“In a Williamson administration, no person, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, will feel unsupported by their government,” according to the Democratic candidate’s website. “They will live with the absolute knowledge that they and their rights are both honored and protected by the highest authorities in the land.”
The proposed regulations come as a number of states have passed laws that restrict transgender athletes’ participation in sports. These laws have faced legal challenges and have been criticized by civil rights groups as discriminatory.
The Biden administration has said that the proposed regulations are intended to provide clarity for schools and students on when and how transgender students can participate in school sports. The Department of Education has invited public comment on the proposed regulations, which will be open for 30 days from the date of their publication in the Federal Register.
While some advocates for transgender athletes have criticized the proposed regulations, others have praised them as a step forward for transgender rights. The proposed regulations would allow for more nuanced discussions around transgender athletes’ participation in sports, and could help to ensure that transgender athletes are not unfairly excluded from sports teams.
Overall, the proposed regulations have sparked debate over the rights of transgender athletes and the role of schools in ensuring fairness in sports. While some see the regulations as a positive step forward, others worry that they could be used to justify discriminatory policies. The coming weeks and months will likely see further discussion and debate over the proposed regulations and their implications for transgender athletes and the broader LGBT community.
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