Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday signed a bill banning transgender youth from playing public school sports of the gender with which they align.
The legislation is one of several bills targeting transgender youth in the Alabama Legislature this year. The bills have drawn protests from transgender youth, their families and advocates, and will likely lead to lawsuits.
The governor’s office confirmed Ivey had signed the bill but did not immediately respond to requests for further comment Friday afternoon.
Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, the Alabama director of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for the LGBTQ community, said the bill would have a “devastating” effect on a community at high risk of bullying and suicide.
“Trans kids are kids,” she said. “They deserve every opportunity like every other kid to play the sport they identify in.”
The bill, HB 391, sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, bans K-12 sports teams from playing in any competitions that allow transgender athletes to participate. Stadthagen and other supporters argued the bill would protect girls’ sports from potential competition from transgender girls, though an Associated Press survey earlier this year found few if any examples of such things occurring.
“I feel sorry for the kids you’re talking about, I really do,” Stadthagen said under questioning during the House debate in March. “But what about the females who have worked since they started at 4 years old, and they get to high school and all their dreams and scholarships yanked before their eyes?”
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The bill is part of a package in Alabama targeting transgender youth, reflecting similar measures pushed by Republicans in statehouses around the country. Transgender youth and their families say the bills show profound misunderstandings of transgender identities and discriminate against them.
Phineas Fleming-Smith, a transgender youth, said during a Tuesday press conference over Zoom that he did not want to be used as a “political pawn” by legislators.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked. “Why are you using your position of power to cause harm to kids?”
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Civil rights groups condemned the law, saying it discriminates against a marginalized group without any real proof of a problem taking place and had urged Ivey to veto it.
“Preventing students from participating in sports that align with their gender identities sends a dangerous and harmful message of intolerance and exclusion that is not based in fact, but ignorance,” Scott McCoy, an interim deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, said in a statement after the Senate approved the bill. “Its enactment would only serve to further harm Alabama students who only wish to be their authentic selves.”
The Alabama Senate has approved a bill from Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, that would ban transgender youth from obtaining puberty blockers and hormones. Transgender youth, their families and advocates say the legislation could put the lives of transgender individuals in jeopardy. The House has not voted on the measure; a proposed legislative agenda for Tuesday does not include the bill.
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Anderson-Harvey declined to say if a lawsuit would be brought against the bill, though she said “the history is there is some litigation that does go forth.”
In Alabama, a gubernatorial veto can be overridden by a simple majority vote of both chambers. The House approved HB 391 on a 74 to 19 vote on March 18. The Senate approved the measure on a 25 to 5 vote on April 15.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or [email protected] Updated at 7:06 p.m. with comment from Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, the Alabama director of the Human Rights Campaign.