Yesterday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced that he signed into S.B. 354 into law, which bans trans girls and women from playing sports in accordance with their gender identity. It had passed the chambers of the Arkansas General Assembly earlier in the week.
This is the second anti-trans sports ban signed into law this year, joining Arkansas with Mississippi. Like many, Arkansas modelled their proposed law behind the sports ban that became law in Idaho in 2020, although a federal court issued an injunction against it.
S.B. 354 applies to trans girls and women from kindergarten all the way through collegiate sports.
“Today, I have signed into law SB354 called the ‘Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,'” Hutchinson said in a press release. He claims to “have studied the law and heard from hundreds of constituents on this issue.”
“As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law. This will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events,” he concluded.
The bill itself cites, among other things, several quotes from scientists and courts. It opens with a quote from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in the Supreme Court ruling United States v. Virginia, in which she says there are “inherent differences between men and women remain cause for celebration, but not for denigration of the members of either sex or for artificial constraints on an individual’s opportunity.”
However, Ginsberg’s opinion was in favor of the majority ruling in United States v. Virginia, which found that the Virginia Military Institute’s refusal to admit women because it would “destroy” their program was unconstitutional because, as Ginsberg wrote, “such classifications [of sex] may not be used, as they once were, to create or perpetuate the legal, social and economic inferiority of women.”
She also sided with LGBTQ advocates in Bostock v. Clayton Co., which found that Title VII’s ban on discrimination “because of sex” includes anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The bill also cites an opinion article co-written by out tennis star Martina Navratilova in 2019, which claims that “in every sport except sailing, shooting, and riding,” that “there will always be significant numbers” of people assigned male at birth that “would beat” people assigned female at birth.
The article does not cite proof that their hypothetical “significant numbers” exist solely because of one’s sex assigned at birth, it simply claims that the ACLU was “wrong” to say that “girls can compete and win against boys,” misgendering transgender girls.
This is the second of many anti-trans bills to make their way through the legislature in Arkansas this session. An alternative bill known as the Gender Integrity Reinforcement Legislation for Sports Act (GIRLS Act), would require girls and women who want to compete in school sports to present an original birth certificate. This could lead to cisgender girls who were adopted or do not have access to their original birth certificate to being unable to play sports.
It was supported by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and currently sits in the state senate’s Judiciary committee.
Another proposed legislation on the governor’s desk is being called one of the “most extreme and deadly anti-LGBTQ healthcare bill” seen in years. S.B. 289, dubbed as the “Medical Ethics and Diversity Act,” seeks to give medical workers a right to refuse providing healthcare to someone because of the worker’s “religious, moral or ethical” beliefs. That would open the door for LGBTQ people to face denial from life-saving service from doctors, nurses, or EMTs.
Hutchinson claimed previously that he was “neutral” on the the religious exemptions bill.
Several other anti-trans bills are currently in committee or chamber-wide consideration in both the state house and senate, including one passed from the state house and in committee in the state senate that would ban gender-affirming health care for minors.
A hate crimes proposal that Hutchinson supports, meanwhile, has stalled.
Sam Brinton, Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project, said, “To the transgender and nonbinary youth of Arkansas — please know that you deserve love and support and that we will never stop fighting for you. The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 if you ever need to talk about what’s been going on in the world.”
In a statement, the organization specifically note that they have taken over 850 crisis contacts in the last year in the state, and that accounts for approximately only six percent of LGBTQ youth who they estimate to be in crisis or face crisis within the state.
“The slate of hateful bills we’ve seen introduced in Arkansas this year is appalling. Lawmakers should be focusing on real problems like economic hardship and the deadly pandemic, not making life harder than it already is to be transgender in America. Discrimination on the basis of gender identity is illegal.”
NEW: Gov. @AsaHutchinson has signed SB 354 into law – the Fairness in Women's Sports Act bans transgender girls and women from playing on female sports teams in Arkansas. #arnews #arpx @KATVNews pic.twitter.com/ig8IihsKxb
— Marine Glisovic KATV (@KATVMarine) March 25, 2021
Governor Hutchinson’s eagerness to sign this discriminatory legislation is an affront not just to the transgender kids it is bound to hurt but to all Arkansans who will be impacted by its consequences.
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) March 25, 2021
Speaking Out Against Hate: "I coached girls sports for 26 years…I'm also the only LGBTQ member of the Legislature…I'm disappointed the backers of this bill didn't seek out my opinion on this bill…Transgender girls are girls. @RepTippi33 on #SB354 targeting sports #ARvoice pic.twitter.com/HCqSyAa9e5
— Democratic Party of Arkansas (@ArkDems) March 22, 2021
Arkansas is poised to become the first and only state to criminalize health care for trans people.
It is up to Governor Hutchinson to veto the bill proposing this legislation. https://t.co/IheoshjkJZ
— ACLU (@ACLU) March 26, 2021