Bills attacking transgender athletes stall in Georgia legislature

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Four anti-transgender bills – including three targeting student-athletes – stalled this week at the Gold Dome after failing to meet a key deadline, meaning they are likely dead for the legislative session.

LGBTQ activists cautioned that the bills could resurface as amendments to other legislation before lawmakers head home on March 31. 

One of the anti-trans bills – Senate Bill 266 from Sen. Marty Harbin, a Republican from Tyrone – was on a fast-track for approval. But the Georgia Senate did not schedule it for a floor vote on Monday, which was Crossover Day. Bills are dead for the session if they don’t pass one chamber of the General Assembly by then. 

“We are very pleased that none of these attacks on transgender kids have moved from one chamber to another and while the original bills themselves are effectively dead for this session, it is incredibly important for us to realize – especially on the Senate bill – there seems to be a lot of momentum on that,” said Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality’s executive director. 

Harbin’s bill prohibits transgender girls from women’s sports teams by defining gender as a person’s assigned sex at birth. It then bans “biological males” from joining female athletic teams. The bill would also allow students or their parents to file complaints alleging a violation of the ban. 

The bill is similar to House Bill 372 from state Rep. Rick Jasperse, a Republican from Jasper. A third bill – House Bill 276 from state Rep. Philip Singleton, a Republican from Sharpsburg – would expand the ban to exclude transgender women from college athletics. Neither of those bills passed out of House committees.

The two-year legislative cycle of the General Assembly means all three bills automatically return in 2022. Lawmakers could attach any of them to other bills still under consideration in the closing days of the session.

“We are extremely concerned that this language could be added to any number of bills that address education that are still active this session,” Graham said. “It is incredibly important for people to continue to reach out to their legislators to talk about the dangers of these bills, the harm they do to transgender students and the fact that they really do nothing to support girls’ sports.”

In addition to the three bills banning transgender athletes, state Rep. Ginny Ehrhart targeted doctors who help transgender children in House Bill 401.

Lawmakers also did not take action on a pro-LGBTQ bill from state Rep. Matthew Wilson. The Democrat from Brookhaven, one of seven LGBTQ lawmakers in Georgia, wants to ban conversion therapy. House Bill 569 would ban professional counselors, physicians and psychologists from controversial practices that attempt to change sexual orientation of children under 18 years of age.

Wilson introduced the same bill in 2019. Lawmakers vetted it during the state’s first-ever hearing on conversion therapy, but the measure stalled.

Supporters of the legislation hope it receives a hearing from the House Regulated Industries Committee before the session ends this month.

“While it’s good that nothing bad passed on Crossover Day, it does not mean our work is over or that we can let our guard down,” Graham said. “Over the next three weeks, any number of bad things could happen if we are not vigilant.”

On Monday, the Georgia Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to modernize the state’s HIV laws.

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