Georgia lawmaker issues ‘devastating’ second attack on trans athletes

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A Georgia lawmaker wants to ban transgender athletes from competing in any local school system. It’s the second effort targeting trans youth introduced in the legislature this month. 

State Rep. Rick Jasperse, a Republican from Jasper, filed House Bill 372 on Feb. 9. The bill would amend an existing state law that bars gender discrimination in school sports by defining gender as “a person’s biological sex at birth and shall be recognized based on a person’s reproductive organs at birth.” 

HB 372 is similar to HB 276, a bill filed on Feb. 4 by state Rep. Philip Singleton, a Republican from Sharpsburg. That measure would prevent transgender women from competing in female sports at public and private schools and colleges. It would also allow cis-gender female athletes to sue schools if they can prove they were denied an opportunity to participate in sports by the inclusion of a trans woman.

“Both of these bills would have devastating impacts on trans students in Georgia,” said Shannon Clawson, state outreach manager for Georgia Equality. “It would deny them the opportunity to find community in sport and learn important skills like leadership, teamwork and discipline.”

“Moreover, subjecting transgender athletes to institutional stigma would exacerbate the already high rates of depression and suicide among trans children,” she added. 

State Sen. Kim Jackson, a Democrat from Atlanta

Panel of physicians to scrutinize trans youth

Under Jasperse’s HB 372, student-athletes can request a waiver from the law but would face scrutiny by a three-person panel of physicians who would review the athlete’s gender, genetic makeup and medical records. 

“Obviously, this would be a major invasion of privacy for our children and a particularly fraught process for intersex students,” Clawson said.

State Sen. Kim Jackson, a Democrat from Atlanta, agreed with Clawson on the privacy issue. Jackson became Georgia’s first LGBTQ state senator in January.

“This is actually not about protecting girls and girls’ sports,” she said on the Feb. 11 episode of GPB’s “Political Rewind.” “In fact, it brings a spotlight on elite athletes and really puts them in an incredibly vulnerable position.”

Tifton Mayor Julie Smith, a Republican, said the measure was a solution looking for a problem. 

“I just kind of scratch my head sometimes with things that come before our legislators,” she said on “Political Rewind.”

State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, a Republican from Marietta (Photo courtesy Georgia House)

Two anti-LGBTQ lawmakers team up again

HB 372 also contradicts a Title IX policy requiring schools to allow girls to play in boys’ sports if there is no girls’ team for that sport, according to Clawson.

“At the end of the day, these bills don’t support girl athletes and only serve to bully trans kids,” she said. “Rather than promoting a solution in search of a problem, legislators should leave trans children alone and just let kids play.”

With Jasperse, the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and former chair of the Senate Education Committee, as sponsor, HB 372 has a “substantial chance” of passing, Jackson said.

HB 372 has five co-sponsors – all Republicans: state Reps. Jason Ridley, Mike Cameron, Rick Williams, Steve Tarvin and Ginny Ehrhart. It has not been assigned to a House committee for a hearing.

Ehrhart has a long anti-LGBTQ track record. She compared transgender people to moose during her 2018 campaign, vowed to revive a push for anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” legislation in the 2019 session, spoke out against a bill that would ban conversion therapy for minors during a hearing at the state Capitol in 2019 and targeted doctors with a “trans panic” bill in 2020.

Jasperse co-sponsored Ehrhart’s “trans panic” bill. He also pushed back on adding LGBTQ protections to a student scholarship bill in 2017.

Jasperse, Ehrhart, Ridley and Tarvin all voted against a historic LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes bill that passed in 2020 and was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp. Williams voted in favor of the hate crimes bill. Cameron took office in January.

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

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