Georgia Senate panel OKs bill limiting sports to gender identified at birth

State Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 266. A Senate committee advanced the legislation, which would require student athletes to participate in school sports according to their gender at birth. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
State Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 266. A Senate committee advanced the legislation, which would require student athletes to participate in school sports according to their gender at birth. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

A Georgia Senate panel approved legislation that would require students to participate in high school sports according to the gender that appears on their birth certificate.

Senate Bill 266 would ban schools from allowing transgender girls from participating in sports that align with their gender identity. The Senate Education and Youth Committee approved the measure on a party-line vote of 5-3, with Republicans voting in favor of the bill.

“I believe that God made man, took one look and said that I can do better than that, and made woman,” said state Sen. Marty Harbin, a Tyrone Republican who sponsored the bill. “Forcing girls to play against biological males limits the ability of young women in the state of Georgia to win competitions, receive scholarships and to achieve the highest levels of success and in their sports. Senate Bill 266 protects the level playing field.”

Harbin was unable to list any instances where a transgender girl either took the spot of another student or received a scholarship that another young athlete could have received in Georgia. But he said it was important to get ahead of the issue.

Jen Slipakoff, who has a 13-year-old transgender daughter, said the legislation would leave her daughter unable to participate in sports. She described her daughter, who is a seventh grader at a private school, as being 4 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 60 pounds. She plays on the girls lacrosse team this year.

“It’s not dangerous for my daughter to be on the same sports team as her girlfriends,” Slipakoff said. “She’s not taking the spot of another more deserving girl — as if my daughter deserves less. She’s not a threat. Rather, she’s a teenager that has worked for the last decade trying to help people understand who she really is.”

According to the bill, schools would have to define a student’s gender based on “a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.” A young athlete who could prove she was deprived of an opportunity that was given to a transgender girl, or was harmed by a transgender girl while playing a sport, could then sue the school or school system for damages.

Opponents of the bill warned that it could lead to increased suicide attempts by transgender children and cost the state money by jeopardizing large events, such as those put on by the NCAA.

Supporters said transgender girls have an unfair advantage because of their biology and pointed to cases in Connecticut where two transgender girls placed first and second in track competitions in 2018 and 2019.

“I think it’s just wisdom — our girls don’t have to deal with that issue, and should not have to deal with that issue — and I see it as a protection for them just like anything else is a protection for them,” Harbin said.

A similar bill, House Bill 276, was introduced in the House, but did not gain traction.“

About the bill

According to the bill, schools would have to define a student’s gender based on “a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.” A young athlete who could prove she was deprived of an opportunity that was given to a transgender girl, or was harmed by a transgender girl while playing a sport, could then sue the school or school system for damages.

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