In early April, in a last-minute amendment to a bill restricting conversations about race in public school classrooms, lawmakers inserted a provision allowing sports associations to make decisions about transgender athletes. Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday signed the “divisive concepts” bill, House Bill 1084, into law. He is campaigning in a Republican primary against former U.S. Senator David Perdue and has signed a number of GOP-led education bills that appeared to channel the electoral forces that fueled Glenn Youngkin’s upset victory in the running for governor of Virginia last year.
“I’m proud to have championed this effort in Georgia! Kemp said on Twitter on Wednesday, after the GHSA vote.
Following my signature on HB 1084, the Georgia High School Association voted today to protect fairness in school sports by unanimously approving young people to compete based on the sex determined on their birth certificate.
I am proud to have championed this effort in Georgia! pic.twitter.com/m0bTA27Oas
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) May 4, 2022
Several members of the GHSA executive committee declined or did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“We’re approaching this as a matter of competitive balance,” Hines told the AJC on Tuesday ahead of the vote. “We don’t want to discriminate against anyone, but that includes biological daughters. There are usually competitive imbalances between biological females and biological males.
The GHSA did not cite any complaints from specific transgender athletes who threatened the balance of the competition. It does not track the participation of transgender students. Hines said he was only anecdotally aware of a few transgender athletes competing in men’s cross country.
The most well-known protest in high school sports nationwide occurred in 2018, when two transgender girls won or placed second in events at a track meet in the state of Connecticut. . Three girls who finished behind them sued the Connecticut policy. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed. In Tennessee, a lawsuit is underway after a transgender boy was denied the opportunity to play for his school’s golf team due to 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 leading proponents of “divisive concepts” legislation controlling how race is discussed in classrooms and the amendment transgender who was added to it. Miller, who is running for lieutenant governor, applauded the GHSA’s decision, saying it was needed in high schools because of “what’s going on at the college level” with transgender athletes. “It’s called women’s sport for a reason,” he said. “It’s for the girls.”
Democrats have criticized these GOP bills as a way to energize their base in this year’s election. They also criticized what they described as Kemp’s “ruthless campaign against transgender children” amid growing violence against them and a rising suicide rate.
“Brian Kemp’s use of state-sanctioned intimidation of Georgia’s trans youth as a campaign strategy is unconscionable,” Max Flugrath, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said in a statement.
Civil rights organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also denounced the GHSA vote.
“This unnecessary pressure to discriminate against transgender student-athletes, which appears to have culminated today, deepens Georgia’s troubling record on these issues and unnecessarily harms an already vulnerable population,” said the director of the Georgia State HRC Dewayne Johnson in a statement. “The legislative session was about to adjourn last month when Governor Kemp put his thumb on the scales to bring this topic back on the agenda. Now, the Georgia High School Association has followed their lead in enacting this ban, and Georgia’s transgender students will be the ones to suffer. This is a parody and should be reversed.