Alabama Expands Trans Athlete Ban to College Level

Alabama Expands Trans Athlete Ban to College Level
A school group walks the grounds of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Ala., on May 15. (Julie Bennett/Getty Images)
Caden Pearson

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed legislation on Tuesday that bans biological males from participating in female college athletic teams and vice versa.

The legislation, applicable to two-year and four-year public colleges, states its aim is to ensure fair competition and equal opportunities for female athletes. It expands a similar K-12 ban to college-level teams implemented in 2021.

The bill garnered strong support from the Republican-controlled legislature, passing with a significant majority of votes. In the Senate, it passed with a vote of 26–4, while in the state House, it passed with a vote of 83–5.

Under the new law, which amends the Code of Alabama 1975, public higher education and K-12 schools are prohibited from participating in or sponsoring interscholastic athletic events exclusively for males if individuals who are not biological males are involved. Similarly, biological females are barred from participating on male teams when a female team is available.

“If you’re a biological male, you are not going to be competing in women’s and girl’s sports in Alabama. It’s about fairness, plain and simple,” Ivey said in a statement.

People who have commenced hormone therapy are not exempt from the new ban.

The legislation emphasizes the physical differences between biological males and females, citing advantages such as larger body size, skeletal muscle mass, and higher levels of testosterone in males, according to the bill’s text (pdf). These differences, it argues, create a significant performance gap in sports.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Susan DuBose, said “no amount of hormone therapy can undo” the advantages biological men have over biological women in sports.

“Forcing women to compete against biological men would reverse decades of progress that women have made for equal opportunity in athletics,” DuBose told the committee in April.

According to the Movement Advancement Project, a left-leaning organization, a total of 21 states have implemented policies prohibiting transgender athletes from participating on sports teams that do not correspond with their biological sex in K-12 settings.

Last year, Iowa and South Dakota implemented similar bans. The Missouri legislature recently passed a similar bill that awaits the governor’s approval. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled against a ban in West Virginia in April.

The Bill

Public schools and higher education institutions will be shielded from adverse action for complying with the law by provisions in the bill. It also prohibits retaliation against students who report violations.

In cases where a student is harmed or directly deprived of athletic opportunities due to a violation, the legislation provides a private cause of action for injunctive relief, damages, attorney fees, and other remedies available under the law.

However, the bill does not restrict the eligibility of any student to participate in coed or mixed-designated athletic teams or sports. It will go into effect three months from the date of passage and approval by the governor.

Alabama’s bill is part of a wave of legislation pursued by mostly Republican states, which lawmakers argue is about protecting biological female athletes, reducing the risk of injury, and promoting equality by allowing them to compete on a fair playing field.

Opponents see this and other similar legislation as placing restrictions on transgender people as part of broader discriminatory LGBT politics.

Alabama legislators passed bills that ban individuals from accessing sex-designated bathrooms and locker rooms opposite their biological sex. Proponents of such measures argue this protects female-only spaces from the risk of abuse by biological men who identify as female or non-binary, citing examples of incidents around the country.

Lawmakers in Alabama have also implemented a ban on providing minors with puberty blockers and hormone therapies, which LGBT advocates describe as “gender-affirming care.” However, a judge has issued a temporary block on the medication ban pending a court challenge.

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