Transgender School Sports Bill Set to Advance in Indiana

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Indiana lawmakers are pushing for a bill that would prevent transgender girls from participating in sports.

There are already signs that the bill will progress through the legislative process. House Bill 1041, which would bar students designated male at birth from participating in female sports, is scheduled to be heard in committee on Monday, House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, confirmed Wednesday.

At least half a dozen bills were introduced early in the 2022 legislative session that could impact transgender Hoosiers, including bills banning gender-affirming medical care for minors, limiting restrooms that transgender Hoosiers could use, requiring the state to collect gender data confirming surgeries and prohibiting sex reassignment on a birth certificate.

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It’s not unusual for such bills to be introduced in Indiana, but most bills related to transgender or LGBTQ+ people have not progressed in the years since the negative national attention of Indiana for its Religious Freedom Restoration Act 2015.

That doesn’t appear to be the case this year, amid a slew of bills targeting social issues, ranging from legislation limiting what teachers can say about race in the classroom to a bill removing the handgun license requirement.

Impact of the sports invoice

Indiana follows in the footsteps of dozens of other states who filed legislation in 2021 to ban transgender girls from playing women’s sports, amid nationwide struggles over transgender equality issues. Even U.S. Senator Mike Braun, R-Indiana, weighed in in an editorial last year, warning that allowing transgender girls to play on women’s teams would “deprive young women of sports scholarships”.

A similar bill in Texas just went into effect this week.

Kit Malone, an advocacy strategist for the ACLU of Indiana, said supporters’ fears are overblown. House Bill 1041 does not target elite athletes; it targets kids who just want to play on a team with their friends, she said.

Representative Bob Behning and other representatives gather during the Indiana House meeting, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, in his temporary room at Government Center South in Indianapolis.

“(House Bill) 1041 would make it illegal for trans kids to team up with their friends,” Malone said. “Sometimes when a trans woman is successful, it’s used as proof that cisgender women are going to be taken out of these sports, that they’re going to be overtaken by a horde of trans women. We just haven’t seen that happen. “

On Wednesday, Behning told IndyStar that a majority of House Republicans support the bill. Behning said he thought it made sense and was worth discussing.

“It’s just, how do we make sure that…we’re playing fair athletically,” Behning said.

Similarly, Micah Clark, executive director of the socially conservative American Family Association of Indiana, argued that girls could lose a scholarship to “someone who a biological male.”

The bill’s author, Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland, did not respond to requests for comment.

The family of a transgender seventh grader filed a lawsuit against Martinsville Schools last year for a similar issue. According to court documents, the family alleges that John R. Wooden Middle School unjustly denied him access to the boys’ bathroom, prevented him from participating in boys’ sports and refused to address him by male pronouns. .

Rep. Michelle Davis speaks with colleagues during the Indiana House meeting, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, in her temporary room at Government Center South in Indianapolis.

Senate Bill 402

A second bill that could impact transgender youth is also set to advance at the Statehouse, Senate Bill 402. This bill, drafted by Republican Salem Senator Erin Houchin, would clarify that it is not considered child abuse or neglect to use pronouns that are not compatible with gender identity. of a child. The Senate Family and Children’s Services Committee will consider the bill on Thursday.

Houchin, who announced a candidacy for Congress in the 9th District, said in a statement that the Senate has received calls from parents that the Department of Children’s Services is investigating due to anonymous or outside tips that parents of the child were not using the correct pronouns.

“The legislation simply clarifies that this alone does not rise to the level of abuse or neglect and is intended to prevent the government from interfering in very private and personal matters between parents and children,” Houchin said. “The provision does not preclude the Department of Children’s Services from intervening on behalf of children in cases where allegations are made regarding their safety.”

This bill is problematic, Malone said. Ultimately, what counts as abuse should be left to the experts, she said.

Sen. Erin Houchin, left, speaks with Sen. Eric Koch during a legislative redistricting hearing Wednesday, August 11, 2021 at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis.

“The way families deal with these situations can be nuanced and changing and I don’t think anyone wants children to be taken out of a loving home because a family is, you know, growing up on identity. gender of a child,” Malone said. “But what we don’t want is to chain social workers and child protection service providers by telling them that this can never be considered child abuse, because of course sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Clark, however, agreed with the language and said it must have been harder to remove a child from a home.

“I think abuse has to be a much higher threshold than that,” he said.

Other legislation

LGBTQ+ advocates don’t think other Indiana bills targeting transgender rights will move this legislative session forward. But, they say, even seeing those bills filed is detrimental to transgender people.

“Even introducing these bills, even introducing them, and then contributing to this feeling that transgender people have, that their own communities are attacking them and trying to ostracize them, it has a very negative and scary effect on young people. “, Malone said, “and we see it every year.”

According to a Trevor Project poll conducted this fall, 85% of transgender youth said recent debates over state laws restricting the rights of transgender people had a negative impact on their mental health.

House Bill 1348, a bill from Jasonville Republican Rep. Bruce Borders would ban transgender Hoosiers from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. This same problem has led to fierce economic backlist in 2016 in North Carolina.

The issue of transgender students and their treatment, or abuse, by schools is also not new to the courts. In 2019, a federal judge ruled that a school in Evansville violated civil rights protections by not allowing a transgender boy to use the men’s restroom at school.

Another bill from Davis, House Bill 1121, would require the state to collect data on the frequency of gender-affirming surgeries or prescriptions for minors.

House Bill 1399, also from Borders, would ban sex changes on birth certificates, and Senate Bill 34, a bill by Auburn Republican Sen. Dennis Kruse would have banned all surgery or gender-affirming hormones for minors, regardless of parental approval.

Kruse declined to comment as he said his bill would not move forward. Borders did not respond to requests for comment.

Alisha Hunter, the mother of a 15-year-old transgender boy, said if a bill like SB 34 passes that would ban the type of care her son receives, their family would seriously consider leaving the state. Her son receives gender-affirming therapy and healthcare at Riley at IU Health.

“They are experts in the field,” Hunter said. “And the fact that there are lawmakers who think they somehow know better than these doctors, quite honestly, is quite disgusting.”

Hunter, who is also a co-founder of the upcoming Central Indiana chapter of GLSEN, an organization that ensures LGBTQ students can learn and grow in a school environment free from bullying and harassment, also pointed to the harm it would cause. make sex on a birth certificate a permanent record that cannot be changed.

Two years ago, Hunter changed his son’s legal name and gender on his birth certificate. It’s one less thing he has to worry about at school, she said, now that official school records and documents don’t identify him by the wrong name or gender. Substitutes no longer receive a roster with incorrect information, a situation that led to some uncomfortable mistakes.

“If you ask me, these are hate bills,” she said. “That’s exactly what they are. It shows bigotry and hatred towards the transgender community.

Deadlines to move legislation forward out of committee for both chambers are next week. Anything that doesn’t is considered dead.

Call IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270 or email her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.

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