Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill Thursday to bar transgender athletes who are biologically male from competing on girls sports teams.
Mississippi is the first state so far to enact such a ban, after a similar law in Idaho was struck down by a federal court last year. If no legal challenges come forward, Mississippi’s Senate Bill 2536 is set to become law July 1.
Republicans have said the bill was introduced in response to an executive order signed by President Joe Biden ordering schools across the nation to allow students to participate in sports under the sexual identity they have chosen.
“This important piece of legislation will ensure that young girls in Mississippi have a fair, level playing field in public school sports,” Reeves said Thursday during the signing of the bill.
“It sends a clear message to my daughters and all of Mississippi’s daughters that their rights are worth fighting for,” added Reeves.
The Mississippi Fairness Act is one of 25 other bills being introduced by U.S. lawmakers as families voice concerns about allowing biological male athletes to participate in female sports, saying it will make sports competition unfair.
Transgender rights activists criticized the bill Thursday, claiming it “isn’t about protecting fairness in women’s sports.”
“It’s about erasing and excluding trans people from participation in all aspects of public life,” Mississippi’s ACLU branch said in a statement Thursday. “Not once have the supporters of this bill cited an actual dispute over this issue in Mississippi.”
“Whatever your politics, we should all agree that ostracizing middle and high school kids is not something to celebrate,” the statement continued.
The Mississippi law will require any public school and university that is a member of the Mississippi High School Activities Association and NCAA, among other interscholastic sports conferences, to designate their athletic teams as male, female, or co-ed on the basis of biological sex, restricting athletes who are born male from joining female teams.
In addition, student-athletes who are deprived of an athletic opportunity or suffer any direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of the legislation are entitled to a “private cause of action for injunctive relief, damages and any other relief available under the law” against their school.
Acknowledging the “inherent differences between men and women,” the legislation explains that male-born transgender athletes have physical advantages over their biological female competitors despite any attempt to suppress male hormones.
“Even after twelve months of hormonal therapy, a man who identifies as a woman and is taking cross-sex hormones had an absolute advantage over female athletes and will still likely have performance benefits over women,” the bill reads, citing a recent study.
GQ Pan contributed to this report.