A bill that would ban transgender girls and women from participating in school-sponsored girls’ and women’s sports in Arkansas is on its way to the governor’s office. The state House gave final approval on Monday, voting 75-18 to pass Senate Bill 354.
According to the bill any intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic team that is "expressly designed for females, women or girls" cannot accept participants who are transgender.
State entities and athletic associations would not be allowed to accept complaints of gender bias, conduct an investigation or take any other action against a school that upholds the ban.
Furthermore, girls who are "deprived of an athletic opportunity," or suffered direct or indirect harm from a school not following the ban can seek injunctive relief, or even monetary damages.
Supporters say the legislation is intended to allow cisgender girls to play sports and not be at a "physical disadvantage" against transgender girls. Rep. Tippi McCullough, D-Little Rock, spoke against the bill on the House floor. She argued allowing transgender girls to compete will not rob cisgender girls of opportunities.
"Not one transgender female is dominating. Not one is taking away a scholarship. First of all, there’s not just one scholarship that everybody’s competing for. There are many. Let’s take track as an example. If you’re running good times, even if you’re second or third, you’ll be recruited," McCullough said.
Rep. Deborah Ferguson, D- West Memphis, also spoke against the bill and against lobbyist groups that are advocating for such anti-transgender bills this session.
"I am so concerned that we’re allowing these big lobbying groups to weaponize religion to discriminate against this tiny minority of vulnerable youth," Ferguson said.
In presenting the bill to the House floor, Rep. Sonia Eubanks Barker, R-Smackover, pushed back against Ferguson’s statement.
"It’s also not about Christian beliefs or non-beliefs. It’s about physical and physiological differences between biological males and biological females," Barker said.
The bill now goes to office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has not said if he supports it.