Controversial Oklahoma Senate transgender sports bill could cost state millions

Oklahoma Politics

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A bill moving through the Oklahoma Legislature right now could change rules that apply to transgender athletes in grades K-12, but if passed, it could mean millions lost from the state economy.

Supporters call Senate Bill 2 the “Save Women’s Sports Act.” Opponents say its an anti-transgender bill that could cost Oklahoma big bucks.

“This has nothing to do with criminal justice and corrections,” said Rep. Mauree Turner, D-OKC.

It’s a piece of legislation originally dealing with school financing, but the bill was amended last week, throwing out all the finance language and replacing it with the “Save Women’s Sports Act.”

“This is not an anti-transgender bill at all. This is not derived out of hatred. This is to honor the dedication of female athletes,” said Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin.

A similar bill, SB 331, died in the State Senate earlier this year.

However, that same language is now used in the SB2 amendment, with author Hasenbeck arguing in a statement that the current playing field for female Oklahoma school athletes isn’t always level.

“Senate Bill 2 is legislation that protects opportunities for women and girls in athletics by ensuring they are not forced to compete against biological men playing on women’s sports teams. 

Sports are a fantastic opportunity for our young people to learn the value of hard work and what it means to be part of a team, as well as keep them physically fit. However, the bodies of biological men have a competitive advantage over the bodies of biological women. Science tells us that males are generally bigger, faster, and stronger than females. They have larger hearts and lungs, denser bones, and stronger muscles. This allows them to jump higher, run faster and lift more weights, even after several years under the effects of hormone therapy. Similarly gifted and trained males will always have physical advantages over females—that’s the reason we have women’s sports.

When we ignore biological reality, girls get hurt. In athletics, girls are losing medals, podium spots, public recognition, and opportunities to compete. In one year, 275 high school boys ran faster times than the lifetime best of World Champion sprinter Allyson Felix. I believe that biological females should not have their opportunities to compete, achieve records, and receive athletic scholarships infringed upon.

I understand that this is a complicated and sensitive issue. I believe we should work with transgender athletes to allow their participation in sports in other ways, and that’s a conversation I am very willing to have. This bill is not about excluding transgender athletes, it is about protecting the opportunity of biological female athletes to achieve at the highest levels in their sports.”

Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin

“It says if you are a trans girl you can’t play girls sports. It’s an anti-trans sports bill similar to the ones we’ve seen popping up around the nation,” said Rep. Turner.

Turner says similar bills, pushed by political action groups, have passed in states like Mississippi and Arkansas. 

Those have caught the attention of the NCAA.

The NCAA issued a state this week saying…

“The NCAA Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports. This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition.

The NCAA has a long-standing policy that provides a more inclusive path for transgender participation in college sports. Our approach — which requires testosterone suppression treatment for transgender women to compete in women’s sports — embraces the evolving science on this issue and is anchored in participation policies of both the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student-athletes, including transgender athletes, at all levels of sport. Our clear expectation as the Association’s top governing body is that all student-athletes will be treated with dignity and respect. We are committed to ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them.

When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected. We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”

NCAA

“Because you want to pass a piece of bigoted legislation you want to make sure that Oklahoma loses out on that,” said Turner.

The amended bill’s co-authors both declined on-camera interviews but Rep. Sheila Dills of Tulsa put out a statement saying…

“We all want to promote business and economic development opportunities in our state and our local communities, and we certainly love athletics. But we cannot sacrifice our Oklahoma values, which include fairness in sport and the protection of opportunities for women and girls in Oklahoma, for the sake of dollars or even the popularity of such events.

Title IX, federal civil rights law, specifically protects women and girls based on the intent of the definition of biological sex. A small section of the population wants to cloud that intent. 

The NCAA continuously tries to flex its muscles and reshape state’s rights and individual values. More than half of the states in our nation have drafted similar legislation, and this is an opportunity for Oklahoma to stand strong on this issue and provide leadership for others to follow.

I applaud the authors of Senate Bill 2 as they seek to protect women and girls in the sports they play.”

Rep. Sheila Dills, R-Tulsa

The OSSAA says they have detailed rules that, if followed, allow transgender athletes to compete. They also say, “that it hasn’t been an issue at all” and there have been “no complaints from anyone to this point.”

The bill would have to pass the House and go back to the Senate to approve the amendment before it would go to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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