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Multiple Governors Sign Bills Banning Transgender Athletes From School Sports

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On Friday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed the anti-transgender athlete bill requiring athletes to compete in school sports according to their sex at birth. 

Lee said the bill helps to "preserve women's athletics and ensure fair competition." 

"This legislation responds to damaging federal policies that stand in opposition to the years of progress made under Title IX and I commend members of the General Assembly for their bipartisan work," Lee said.

Tennessee became the third state to enact legislation into law this year after Mississippi and Arkansas. 

Lawmakers who support the bill in the Volunteer State argue that the bill protects women sports by ensuring fairness and eliminating a competitive edge for transgender women versus cisgender peers. 

On Thursday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed Senate Bill 354, which banned transgender women and girls from participating in school sports. The decision comes two weeks after Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed a similar bill, which will go in effect July 1.

The Arkansas bill was introduced in late February by attorney general Leslie Rutledge, who described it as a preemptive effort after President Joe Biden signed an executive order that prohibited discrimination based on gender identity in school sports.

“We don’t want common sense to be overshadowed by so-called political correctness, and this bill will ensure the integrity of girls and women in sports,” Rutledge said, per the Associated Press, while acknowledging that she was unaware of any instances of transgender athletes playing on school sports teams in Arkansas.

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The bill asserts that transgender girls and women athletes competing would create an unfair playing field, as they would have a biological advantage over their cisgender competitors. Critics of the bill, meanwhile, accuse the proposal of being discriminatory against transgender Americans.

In a statement released Thursday, Hutchinson called his decision to sign the bill as a way to "promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events."

“Today, I have signed into law SB354 called the 'Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.' I have studied the law and heard from hundreds of constituents on this issue. I signed the law as a fan of women’s sports from basketball to soccer and including many others in which women compete successfully," Hutchinson wrote. "This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition. As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law."

Idaho had a similar law passed in 2020, but a U.S. district judge granted an injunction against it in August

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, declined to sign a similar bill last week, saying she thought the ban should not be extended to college athletes.