Lawmakers discuss Senate bill restricting transgender athletes

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 7:13 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Members of the Senate Education Committee heard testimony about a bill that would require women’s sports teams to only allow biological females to play them.

Senate Bill 208, or The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, would require transgender boys and college-age men to play on women’s teams. Transgender girls and college-age women will be required to play on men’s teams. The bill, introduced by State Sen. Renee Erickson two weeks ago, had its first hearing Thursday afternoon.

Multiple former college athletes and one former Olympic athlete in favor of the bill spoke out.

Callie Hicks is a former track athlete for Kansas University was one of them. She also was a gymnast in high school.

“I think that everyone should have a right to compete, simply what we are up against here and I believe what we are trying to keep rolling is fairness for women specifically,” she said.

The bill finds there are inherent biological differences between men and women -- including men having larger hearts, lung capacity and higher natural levels of testosterone resulting in generating higher speed and power during physical activity.

In her testimony, Hicks said that pole vaulters saw a gap in ability. The men’s top five competitors averaged more than four feet than the top five female women.

“I’ve witnessed the difference that boys have compared to girls. Further, I do want to go off what Senator Erickson touched on which is that 50 high school boys have already beat the women’s world record for the 400 meter dash in the sport of track and field,” said Hicks. “I think if there’s anything that illustrates the issue we’re addressing here - is that.”

Those against the bill, like Democratic Representative Stephanie Byers, said it’s affected young Kansans’ mental health. She said limiting them by saying you’re not as good as the guys is not right.

Byers said “That’s also a reason not to stand with this bill and make sure this bill does not go any further.”

Thomas Witt, Executive Director for Equality Kansas, said “Unfair is a bunch of grownups in this building who know better constantly picking on little kids because they’re too afraid to pick on people their own size.”

The groups speaking against the bill argue it would violate Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- which protects all students, including transgender students, from discrimination based on sex.

Director of Advocacy for ACLU Kendall Seal said they will go to court if it does pass.

“If were to go all the way through and somehow approved by both houses then I would imagine our governor would veto it - I haven’t had the chance to talk to her about it,” said Byers.

Byers, like others who made a testimony at the hearing, mentioned bullying of transgender students, not just in the classroom, but from teachers and elected officials.

Conversations have been brought up about possibly having a league solely for transgender people.

Witt, like the others, thinks that should not be up for discussion.

“Just down the street from here, is the elementary school that was the center of Brown v. Board of Education. This country has learned that separate but equal doesn’t work,” he said. “If we want to go back and try that again, I say, ‘hell no. We’ve been there.’”

Hicks said all athletes deal with bullying and that she doesn’t think it would stop for trans athletes if they were to play with their desired gender or not. “Everyone has a right to compete and if that involves a separate field of competition eventually in the future, then I think that’s what might develop and evolve,” she said.

Erickson brought up how women have had to make their own lane to compete. Bringing up the struggles of women racing in the Boston Marathon before finally being allowed to run.

“I can’t say whether I think that bullying in itself will present itself a more dramatic issue from the passing of this bill but I will say that I think that everyone again, should have the opportunity to compete fairly against those that are the same biological sex as themselves,” said Hicks.

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