Sara Burlingame. Photo by Matt Idler

Wyoming LGBTQ Advocacy Group Holds Protest In Opposition To Transgender Sports Bill

in News/Legislature

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By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

A somewhat somber mood overshadowed a press conference rally held on the front steps of the Wyoming Capitol on Monday afternoon.  Reinvigorating the fight against a bill that would ban biological males from competing in girls’ public-school sports was the theme of the day.

Minutes before the start of the rally, the bill had passed through the State House Appropriations Committee, moving it one step closer to being passed into law. 

Sarah Burlingame, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group Wyoming Equality, used a sports analogy to describe her group’s upcoming final fight against this bill. 

“No matter what happens today, all the transgender, all the non-binary children and their families know that we will not let this go silently and we left everything on the field,” she said. 

Monday was the last day for Senate File 133 to be voted on for the first time in the House, but Burlingame said she expects this to occur as she believes Speaker of the House state Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, wants the bill to be heard.

It’s actually up to Majority Floor Leader Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, whether to bring a bill that has passed through committee, but Neiman is a staunch conservative and has expressed similar views to Sommers. 

Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, spoke during the rally and was even more blunt about her expectation for the bill while speaking to Cowboy State Daily after. 

“It’s going to pass but it won’t go down without a fight,” Provenza said. 

SF 133 passed through the Senate on a 28-3 vote and was set to be considered later for the first time in the House later in the day on Monday.



Push To Play 

The major theme of Monday’s 20-minute rally was the expressed need to let transgender youth participate in sports consistent with their gender identity.  

Provenza cited a recent Laramie survey that showed 55% of teachers and students believe transgender children in their schools are targeted and bullied. 

“What’s best is putting the mental health of our children above all else,” Provenza said during the rally. 

SF 133 would keep biological males who identify as transgender girls from competing against biological girls in interscholastic sports.  

Santi Murillo, 25, is a transgender woman who began transitioning while attending the University of Wyoming and competing on the spirit team.  

“We have a responsibility to support our youth, to make them feel included, to teach them the values of teamwork and compassion,” Murillo said. “High school sports aren’t about winning. As a coach myself, I want my athletes to enhance skills to help them through adulthood.”  

Murillo, Provenza and Burlingame urged the roughly 50 people in attendance to exert pressure on lawmakers to oppose the bill. 



Fallout 

Provenza said at an earlier committee meeting she anticipates a lawsuit over the law because many other states have had similar laws challenged. She asked for an amendment to appropriate $1 million in state money toward defending the state against it in court. This amendment was removed by the Appropriations Committee on Monday just prior to the rally.

Many of those who support SF 133 have expressed concern about transgender females creating an unsafe environment of competition for the biological females they are competing against. One mother who testified before the House Education Committee last week said her daughter was prevented from competing in state track because a transgender athlete easily outdid her in the high jump.    

Burlingame said the Wyoming High School Activities Association policy on this matter has worked well since put in place nine years ago. 

The Wyoming High School Activities Association’s policy on transgender athletes leaves it up to individual schools to determine eligibility when making these types of reviews.  

“It has never once been appealed,” Provenza said during the rally. 

SF 133 as currently written establishes a Wyoming High School Athletics Association commission to settle transgender athlete appeals case by case – if the ban fails in court.    

Kota Babcock, a transgender male, was in attendance at the rally on Monday. Babcock said he eventually dropped out from playing girls sports out of fear of being bullied for being bisexual and would’ve rather played male sports if it had been more socially acceptable. He believes sports are an avenue to prevent truancy and criminal behavior.  

“I was forced out of sports because I didn’t feel safe,” Babcock said. “These girls who might have already felt unsafe are now being forced out against their will. They can’t just be strong and keep doing it.”

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