In early April, in a last-minute amendment to a bill restricting conversations about race in public school classrooms, lawmakers inserted a provision authorizing sports associations to make decisions about transgender athletes. Gov. Brian Kemp signed the “divisive concepts” bill, House Bill 1084, into law Friday. He is campaigning in a Republican primary against former U.S. Sen. David Perdue and signed a number of GOP-driven education bills that seemed to be channeling the electoral forces that powered Glenn Youngkin’s upset victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race last year.
”I’m proud to have championed this effort in Georgia!” Kemp said Wednesday on Twitter, after the GHSA vote.
Several GHSA executive committee members declined or did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
“We’re approaching this as a competitive-balance issue,” Hines told the AJC on Tuesday before the vote. “We don’t want to discriminate against anybody, but that includes biological girls. There are competitive imbalances generally between biological females and biological males.”
The GHSA has not cited any complaints of specific transgender athletes believed to have threatened competitive balance. It does not track participation among transgender students. Hines said he was aware only anecdotally of a couple of transgender athletes participating in boys cross-country.
The most widely known protest in high school sports nationally occurred in 2018, when two transgender girls won or placed second in events at a Connecticut state track-and-field meet. Three girls who finished behind them filed suit over Connecticut’s policy. The lawsuit ultimately was dismissed. In Tennessee, there is a lawsuit pending after a transgender boy was denied the chance to play for his school’s golf team because of a state law passed last year.
In March, University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a transgender woman, won a national title at the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships held at Georgia Tech. Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle for the distinction of the first transgender athlete to win a national championship. Thomas also tied for fifth in the 200-yard freestyle and eighth in the 100-yard freestyle.
Georgia Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, a Republican from Gainesville, was among the prominent supporters of both the “divisive concepts” legislation controlling how race is discussed in classrooms and the transgender amendment that was added to it. Miller, who is running for lieutenant governor, applauded the GHSA decision, saying it was necessary in high schools because of “what’s happening on the collegiate level” with transgender athletes.”It’s called girls sports for a reason,” he said. “It’s for girls.”
Democrats have criticized such GOP bills as a vehicle to energize their base during this year’s elections. They also criticized what they described as Kemp’s “ruthless campaign against transgender children” amid rising violence against them and a heightened suicide rate.
”Brian Kemp’s use of state-sanctioned bullying of Georgia’s trans youth as a campaign strategy is unconscionable,” Max Flugrath, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said in a statement.
The civil rights organization, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), also decried the GHSA’s vote.
“This unnecessary push to discriminate against transgender student athletes, which appears to have reached its culmination today, deepens Georgia’s troubling track record on these issues and needlessly harms an already vulnerable population,” HRC’s Georgia State Director Dewayne Johnson said in a statement. “The legislative session was on the verge of adjourning last month when Gov. Kemp put his thumb on the scales to bring this topic back up. Now the Georgia High School Association has followed his example in issuing this ban, and the transgender students of Georgia will be the ones to suffer. This is a travesty and should be reversed.”