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April 28, 2022 | In The News

House Republicans attempt to force vote on transgender sports bill

Dozens of House Republicans on Wednesday signed on to a petition to force a vote on legislation that would ban transgender women and girls from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

Nine lawmakers led by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) submitted the petitionTuesday to discharge the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, which was introduced by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) in January 2021 and has not been taken up by the House Education and Labor Committee.

On Wednesday, Banks urged more of his colleagues to sign on to the petition at a Republican Study Committee lunch. By the time the House adjourned for the day, the petition had garnered the support of 62 lawmakers.

Banks still needs 218 signers on board to discharge the bill for a floor vote. But this is the strongest Republican attempt so far to get what would be the first federal measure restricting transgender athletes’ participation a step closer to becoming law.

The bill outlines that for the purpose of Title IX, an education law that prohibits discrimination based on sex, sex will be “recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”

Banks accused Democrats of attempting to “destroy” Title IX protections. House Republicans, he said in a statement, should force Democrats to publicly state their position on barring transgender women out of female sports competitions.

Still, Democrats are all but certain to keep the bill from moving forward. The Biden administration has been staunchly supportive of transgender students’ rights, even as more than a dozen states have passed laws that impose similar restrictions on student athletes.

“As I said last year, especially to our younger transgender Americans, I will always have your back as your President,” President Joe Biden said during his State of the Union address.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department also sent a letter to state attorneys general, urging them to abide by laws that protect transgender youth against discrimination and preserve access to gender-related medical care.

Key context: Transgender women have been allowed to compete in women’s sports in the Olympics since 2003. The NCAA, however, updated its policy on the participation of transgender athletes this year, giving the national governing body for each sport its own ability to determine eligibility requirements.

Banks’ move comes as the Biden administration is set to unveil its overhaul of the DeVos-era Title IX rule as soon as this month. The rule mandates how schools and colleges must respond to reports of sexual misconduct, but the Biden administration is also expected to codify anti-discrimination protections for transgender students for the first time. The new rule is expected to put into law the Biden administration’s interpretation of Title IX, which says discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is covered under the statute.

Conservative groups, such as Heritage Action, the American Principles Project and the Independent Women’s Forum, lauded the petition and urged the GOP lawmakers to throw their support behind it.

“Make no mistake: defending women’s sports is fast becoming a litmus test issue for Republicans, and voters will be paying attention to where their representatives stand,” said American Principles Project President Terry Schilling in a statement.