GOP Senator introduces bill that could require genital exams for girls competing in school sports

Kelly Loeffler being sworn in by Mike Pence
Sen. Kelly Loeffler being sworn in by Mike Pence Photo: White House

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) introduced a bill that would ban transgender girls from competing in school sports with their gender, threatening federal funding to schools that support transgender students.

Loeffler introduced the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act in the Senate and said that it “protects [cisgender] women and girls,” presumably from transgender women and girls.

Related: Federal judge shuts down a state’s anti-transgender law… again

The bill would explicitly state that allowing transgender girls and women to compete with their gender in school sports violates Title IX’s ban on discrimination on the basis of sex in schools, which is the legal theory the Trump administration is already using to threaten funding for school districts.

Loeffler’s bill, which says nothing about transgender boys competing in boys’ and men’s sports, says that “sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth” in girls’ and women’s sports.

Similar legislation passed in Idaho earlier this year, and it was criticized because it allowed anyone to challenge a student athlete’s gender, which would force the girl or woman to undergo DNA tests and “genital exams.”

While Loeffler’s bill does not explain exactly how schools will determine an athlete’s gender, it defines eligibility for sports in terms of reproductive organs and chromosomes suggests that it may lead to similar examinations as the Idaho bill.

With the bill’s wording vague and federal funding on the line, schools could opt to require genital exams for all female athletes to prove they aren’t transgender.

“Title IX established a fair chance for girls of all ages to compete—Sports should be no exception,” Loeffler tweeted.

It’s unclear what chance the bill has of passing this late in the year. Loeffler herself is up for reelection this fall – she was appointed to the Senate in January after former Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) retired for health reasons.

Loeffler’s bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), James Lankford (R-OK) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and her press release announcing the bill quoted several far-right organizations and hate groups, including the Concerned Women for America and the designated hate group Family Research Council.

Similar legislation was introduced in the House this past January by Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL).

Republicans have been trying to make transgender girls and women competing in sports a wedge issue. At a 2019 hearing for the Equality Act – which would add LGBTQ people to a broad array of federal civil rights legislation covering employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, and other areas – Republicans narrowly focused on transgender girls and women competing in school sports as a reason to reject the bill entirely.

Terry Schilling of the American Principles Project said earlier this year that transgender girls and women competing in school sports polls well for Republicans and urged Donald Trump’s campaign to make it a wedge issue in order to win reelection.

Schilling also appeared on the press release for Loeffler’s bill, saying, “Women’s sports are under severe threat in 2020” and calling Loeffler “a leader in Congress to stand up for” cisgender girls and women.

Loeffler, who co-owns the WNBA team Atlanta Dream, came under fire earlier this year for comments she made about the Black Lives Matter movement. She said, among other things, that the anti-racist movement “called for the removal of Jesus from churches and the disruption of the nuclear family structure, harbored anti-Semitic views, and promoted violence and destruction across the country.”

Members of her women’s basketball team wore shirts supporting her Democratic opponent in protest of her comments.

Update: Sen. Loeffler’s office contacted LGBTQ Nation about this article and stressed that they do not believe that schools will use genital or DNA exams to comply with the law and will instead use birth certificates, which are not mentioned in the law. We sent the following questions for clarity:

1. Birth certificates are not mentioned in the text of Sen. Loeffler’s bill at all. Instead, the bill refers to “a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.” Also, transgender people can correct the gender marker their birth certificate in almost every state, which means that school districts might not consider a birth certificate proof of someone’s “biology and genetics at birth.” What protections is Sen. Loeffler implementing to ensure that school districts don’t use genital exams or DNA tests to comply with her legislation?

2. Idaho’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act from earlier this year explicitly allows examinations of “the student’s reproductive anatomy, genetic makeup, or normal endogenously 19 produced testosterone levels.” Has Sen. Loeffler publicly condemned the Idaho law?

3. The Supreme Court found in Bostock earlier this year that Title VII’s ban on discrimination “because of sex” also bans discrimination against transgender people. Does Sen. Loeffler not believe that same reasoning applies to Title IX’s ban on discrimination “based on sex” and why?

4. For example, let’s say a woman who happens to be transgender wants to compete on her college women’s volleyball team. She is denied the opportunity under Sen. Loeffler’s legislation because she was assigned male at birth, while other women who were assigned female at birth are allowed to participate. How is that not discrimination against her “based on sex?”

Loeffler’s office sent us this statement in response to those four questions:

Senator Loeffler would never suggest or condone violating anyone’s physical, bodily privacy. The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act is a commonsense bill aimed toward strengthening the goals set out by Title IX: Ensuring fairness when addressing biological sex – the biological sex of a person as recognized on an original birth certificate – in women’s and girls’ sports. Senator Loeffler’s legislation would establish that if a school permits [people assigned male at birth] to compete in female sports, it would risk losing federal funds – this is in order to protect female athletes of all ages and ensure they have the opportunity to compete on an even playing field.

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