Alabama Enacts Law Banning Transgender Athletes From Participating in Biologically Inconsistent Public School Sports

April 25, 2021 Updated: April 26, 2021

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has signed into law a bill that bans transgender student-athletes from competing on K–12 public school single-sex teams that match their gender identity.

House Bill 391, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Republican-controlled state legislature last week, mandates that those who aren’t biologically male or female won’t be able to participate in school-sponsored sports events that are inconsistent with their sex assigned at birth.

“A public K-12 school may not allow a biological female to participate on a male team if there is a female team in a sport,” the bill reads. “A public K-12 school may never allow a biological male to participate on a female team.”

According to the bill, it’s important to make sure sports teams remain separate and sex-specific so that female athletes can have equal opportunity to compete, considering inherent athletic advantages for biological males including, on average, a larger body size, more skeletal muscle mass, lower percentage of body fat, and greater maximal delivery of anaerobic and aerobic energy.

The bill doesn’t specify how student-athletes can prove their biological sex, although its earlier version said that will be determined by their birth certificates.

Already this year, Arkansas, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Tennessee also joined Idaho’s 2020 ban on transgender athletes in school sports, which was later blocked by a federal judge and is currently pending legal review. Tennessee was the first U.S. state to ban both transgender girls and boys from participating in corresponding single-sex school sports, while all others only ban transgender girls. South Dakota’s ban was enacted by executive order, not by legislation.

The states’ legislative efforts came as the Biden administration pushed to open up single-sex spaces and competitions to members of the opposite sex, depending on the person’s stated gender identity. An executive order signed by President Joe Biden on his first day in the White House states that it’s the new administration’s policy to make sure children are able to “learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”

Miguel Cardona, who was confirmed in March as the new U.S. secretary of education, also said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he believes it’s the right of male-born transgender students to compete in girls’ sports.

“I think it’s critically important to respect the rights of all students, including students who are transgender, and that they are afforded the opportunities that every other student has to participate in extracurricular actives,” Cardona said at the time.