The Wyoming House of Representatives is one step away from passing a bill banning biological males from girls’ high school sports.
Senate File 133 originally proposed a ban on all males in public, interscholastic girls’ sports, but the state House altered it to enforce the ban only on a high school level.
Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, proposed the language last week narrowing the bill to high school alone, because that’s when sports scholarships come into play.
The House accepted the change, despite the bill’s sponsor Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, saying she brought the bill in part because families of middle-school age girls had come forward with their concerns.
The bill also contains language stating that if the ban fails in court, the Wyoming High School Athletics Association will appoint a commission determining transgender athlete eligibility on a case-by-case basis.
SF 133 passed its second reading in the state House Tuesday and must survive one more reading, a Senate concurrence vote and the governor’s desk to become law.
Bill proponents argued during a Monday house debate that the bill is necessary to protect girls’ rights and the fruit of their hard work. Opponents said the bill overestimates sex disparities and marginalizes transgender kids.
‘Deconstructing The Rule Of Law’
Provenza opposed the bill vehemently during a Monday House debate.
“We are creating separate classes,” said Provenza. “This bill and any bill that we pass that is flying in the face of the Constitution, our oath to this office is deconstructing the rule of law; it’s deconstructing the courts, the legitimacy of this country. It’s deconstructing the legitimacy of your seat in this body.”
Provenza quoted from the Wyoming Constitution, Article 1, Section 2, which says all humans are equal in their inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. She also cited Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act, saying the act doesn’t promise protection to women, but promises protection from discrimination based on sex.
“There’s a difference,” said Provenza.
The judicial landscape surrounding transgender issues is unsettled. The federal government insists that Title IX promises transgender bathroom and sports access rights.
But a federal court is blocking the federal government from enforcing that interpretation as a result of a lawsuit waged by numerous states against the U.S. Department of Education.
There is no national consensus on whether Title IX protects transgender access rights. Federal courts in different jurisdictions have ruled differently on the matter.
Rep. Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton, said that Wyoming should adhere to the traditional interpretation of Title IX as protecting females’ rights, and the state could lose federal school funding if it doesn’t. That hypothetical could prove true under a different presidency, but not under President Joe Biden’s Department of Education.
Objective Vs. Subjective
Rep. Martha Lawley, R-Worland, urged the House to vote in favor of SF 133, saying it’s not intended to undermine the transgender experience but to protect 50 years of women’s rights progress – and to protect girls’ opportunities.
“What Title IX created was a lane. And that lane is based on objective facts about biological male and female sex,” said Lawley. “One of the reasons the courts have struggled with this – and we don’t really have an answer from them – is the idea of gender identity and as we see it move to gender fluidity – is more subjective.”
The Civil Rights Act, of which Title IX is a portion, was originally written to protect people from discrimination based on inborn characteristics such as sex and race.
Lawley said the more subjective nature of gender identity makes reinterpreting the act a “hard situation” for the courts.
Our Principles In A Clash
Lawmakers also waged ideological debates around SF 133.
Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, said his daughter is beginning her track season Tuesday and is startled by the idea of having to compete against males.
“We’re called to protect those girls – the girls that are out there busting their rears, working hard, doing what they need to do to be at the top of their game,” said Haroldson.
Rep. Trey Sherwood, D-Laramie, countered Haroldson, saying girls should welcome added competition.
“I would say competition is a good thing and that it brings out the best in us and it stretches us,” said Sherwood. She also pointed out physical disparities between people within different sexes by comparing smaller-statured Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, to Provenza, who is much taller.
“If you were to stack up (Yin) next to (Provenza) and bet on who may win a pole-vaulting competition, I would always bet on height, not gender,” she said.