Pa. Senate committee approves bill to ban transgender women from women’s sports

Written by on May 25, 2022

Pa. Senate committee approves bill to ban transgender women from women’s sports

By Sam Dunklau / WITF
May 25, 2022

A Pennsylvania Senate committee is advancing a measure that would ban transgender women from competing in women’s sports at public schools.

Republican senators prevailed in the 7-4 vote Tuesday morning. The vote was along party lines.

Supporters argue cisgender women would face unfair physical disadvantages and even risks to their safety if transgender women aren’t confined to male sports. They add those born with male traits are usually physically stronger than those born with female ones.

Health scientists generally agree, but some studies add that it depends on the size and strength of one person compared to another. One from Princeton University explained researchers should take care to “make comparisons [of athletes] relative to body weight and/or composition.”

Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) who chairs the Senate Education committee, said some sports already separate athletes by physical ability.

“The reason why we have weight classes in wrestling,” Martin said, “the reason why we have weight classes in boxing, even within men’s sports and even within women’s sports, is completely in consideration of the safety of the individuals who are participating.”

Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) said debating about athletes’ physical abilities distracts from the bill’s main effect on trans athletes.

“Somebody is going to be treated unfairly, unless we find a way to do this systemically, as they already do on certain levels,” he said.

Athletic organizations like the International Olympic Committee currently let trans athletes compete in the league of their choice – while allowing leagues to set participation rules for their own sports. The IOC cemented that philosophy in a guidance document last year, a departure from its 2015 guidance that required testosterone testing for all women and required trans women athletes to use testosterone-blocking medicine for at least a year before competing.

Republicans have said a few prominent trans women athletes have fueled their concerns. Earlier this year, lawmakers brought up University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a trans woman who recently won a title at the national NCAA Women’s Division I championship.

On Tuesday, Martin brought up a mixed martial arts fight between transgender athlete Alana McLaughlin and Celine Provost last fall that’s been criticized by some on social media. McLaughlin ended the fight after a few rounds using a chokehold move, which Martin described as “stomach turning.”

A group of state education, psychological and social work organizations that oppose the bill said supporters have not been able to prove whether trans athletes are actually harming their cisgender peers on any scale. The ACLU of Pennsylvania adds the proposal might violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

The bill now heads to the full Senate. House lawmakers approved it along party lines earlier this year.

Gov. Tom Wolf is vowing to veto the bill if it reaches his desk, calling it “disturbing.”

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