The Wisconsin Senate Committee on Education held a press conference Wednesday morning to discuss Republican-introduced legislation that would prohibit transgender youth from participating in sports.
Assembly Bill 377 would require every Wisconsin public, private and charter school to designate sports as either male, female or co-ed and prevent students assigned male at birth from participating in female sports.
“The law would violate the equal protection rights of transgender girls and women and would thus eventually be found unconstitutional,” Sam Grover, a Wisconsin civil rights attorney, said during the conference. “Our testimony also knows the profound negative effects that this bill is likely to have on transgender youth by disapproving their authentic gender based on an anti-scientific definition of sex.”
This bill would violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County that affirmed discrimination based on a person’s trans identity is sex discrimination, according to Grover.
Supporters of the bill said introducing a separate co-ed category will level the playing field for females by accounting for body differences between the sexes.
Opponents of the bill argued that sports offer benefits which, if kept from trans student athletes, would be detrimental to their wellbeing.
“I want my daughter to get the many physical and social benefits of those sports that have been shown for so many children and youth, and I want that for all of her peers,” said Rev. Hannah Roberts Villnave. “Respect for trans kids means full inclusion in their school community, including playing on sports teams that reflects the gender that most people in their school know them as.”
Villnave mentioned that limited sports participation for trans youth could hinder the creation of a sports league exclusively for them. Furthermore, a child may experience a personal sense of exclusion that would enhance feelings of gender identity isolation, she said.
“We already know how to save the lives of transgender children, and it can be summed up in a single word: acceptance,” Jamie Crofts of civic advocacy group Wisconsin Voices said.
Over 80% of trans people consider committing suicide, according to the National Library of Medicine. An estimated 41% of LGBTQ+ youth “seriously considered” committing suicide in the last year, according to Crofts.
The bill is part of a grim mental health crisis for LGBTQ+ youth in Wisconsin, who face growing legal barriers to inclusion.
“Vulnerable and marginalized children are exactly the type of people that our schools, communities and lawmakers should seek to protect. Instead they’re being singled out for more harassment and discrimination,” Crofts said.
Gov. Tony Evers has promised to veto legislation targeting trans rights, according to the Cap Times.