Georgia House Speaker criticizes bills attacking trans athletes

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House Speaker David Ralston called anti-transgender bills introduced by his Republican colleagues this year “a solution in search of a problem.”

Ralston, who represents House District 7 in Blue Ridge, made the comments on GPB’s “Political Rewind” podcast on April 23. He commented on three bills filed during this year’s legislative session that targeted transgender student-athletes.

“Well, sometimes we have issues that come along that are almost solutions in search of a problem, and I think we have to be very, very careful with those kinds of measures,” he said. “I have been very careful with those.”

Two of the bills were filed by Republicans in the House, which Ralston leads. House Bill 372 from Rep. Rick Jasperse would ban trans athletes from school sports by defining gender as a person’s assigned sex at birth. House Bill 276 from Rep. Philip Singleton offers a similar ban but also includes transgender athletes at public and private schools and colleges.

Neither bill gained much traction in the House, though Singleton’s measure did receive a hearing from a House subcommittee.

A third bill, Senate Bill 266 from Sen. Marty Harbin, passed out of committee and was on a fast-track for approval but stalled. It failed to pass by the end of the session.

Ralston said “adequate safeguards” to address the issues are built into local school systems, removing the need for an “incredibly divisive” legislative debate.

“And Lord knows, I didn’t think we needed anymore divisive issues this session,” he said.

Ralston follows the debates over transgender athletes in other states. He pointed to governors in “pretty darn red” states North Dakota and South Dakota that vetoed similar bills.

“There’s sort of a pause going on here, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing,” Ralston said.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem eventually signed executive orders banning transgender athletes after she vetoed the legislation. In March, governors in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee signed into law bills banning transgender athletes.

State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, a Republican from Marietta, introduced a fourth anti-trans bill this year that would imprison doctors who provide gender-affirming care to trans youth. It went nowhere.

The two-year legislative cycle of the General Assembly means all four bills will resurface during the 2022 legilsative session.

Ralston also spoke out repeatedly against anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” bills in the past, and he called LGBTQ adoption bans “offensive” in 2020. When he was re-elected speaker in 2017, Ralston reached out to LGBTQ Georgians in his victory speech.

This story is made possible by Google News Initiative’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.

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