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Alabama Legislature approves ban on transgender athletes

The bill drew opposition from Democrats, who said it’s unnecessary, marginalizes transgender youth and will likely result in lawsuits.

Then-Majority Leader Greg Reed presides over the Alabama Senate in 2018.
UPDATE: Just hours after the Senate approved the legislation Thursday, the Alabama House concurred with the amended bill, approving the measure in a 76-13 vote with six representatives abstaining. The bill now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk for her approval.

The Alabama Senate on Thursday approved a bill that bans transgender athletes in K-12 public schools from competing in the sports of the gender with which they identify. 

House Bill 391 was introduced by Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle, but was carried in the Senate on Thursday by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman. 

Gudger said the bill addresses unfairness in youth sports and said it’s unfair for males to compete against females. 

“There are biological advantages that men possess just naturally, because of genetics,” Gudger said. 

Gudger introduced an amendment he later said was brought by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, which removes language in the bill that requires an athlete’s gender to match the gender on their birth certificate. 

The Senate voted to pass the amendment, then Gudger asked that the bill be carried over at the call of the chair so that he could communicate with his colleagues about the amendment’s details. The bill returned to the floor for consideration later on Thursday. 

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said while he voted for the bill when it was in committee, he would vote against it Thursday and believes it “may be a little overkill.”

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“All student-athletes are expected to be treated with dignity and respect,” Smitherman said, reading a statement from the NCAA, which went on to warn that states with such laws on the books could lose NCAA championship events. 

Smitherman said he believes Jefferson County could get an NCAA event in the next couple of years, and if the bill passes, that could jeopardize the event, which he said could mean millions of dollars for the area.

Birmingham is expected to host NCAA March Madness games in 2023.

Sen. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, said he is tired of “having to speak to issues that I know attempt to, even with good intentions, marginalize others.”

“And frankly speaking, given everything that we are dealing with in this state and in this country, I am personally tired of dealing with legislation that are solutions searching for a problem,” Hatcher said. 

Hatcher said the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association are against such bills and explained that the bill’s treatment of transgender people worries him. 

“I will never, never, ever vote for any legislation that even hints at any possibility of marginalizing people,” Hatcher said. 

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Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, said the amendment passed earlier looks as if the state expects a lawsuit if the bill becomes law. 

Figures, who voted for the bill when it was in the Senate Education Policy Committee, said she asked whether the bill addresses a problem in the state. 

“Particularly when this rule is already a part of the Alabama High School Athletic Association,” Figures said, noting the association requires birth certificates for athletes participating in sports. 

Figures was censured by the Alabama Democratic Party’s LGBTQ+ Caucus for her yes vote on the bill in committee. 

“I pray for the day we elect people to these various offices who think for themselves and follow their own hearts and consciences and vote that way, rather than letting a party or whoever to tell them how to vote,” Figures said. 

Figures noted language in the bill that would preclude a public school youth team from playing in events held by any athletic association that allows transgender athletes to play in female sports if their birth certificate doesn’t indicate them as female. She said that would penalize teams that might play out of state, where such laws don’t exist, and introduced an amendment that would make clear the bill only pertains to Alabama.  

Gudger said her concern was addressed in the previously adopted amendment but accepted her amendment and the Senate voted to approve it. 

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The Senate then passed the bill in a 25-5 vote, sending it back to the House as amended. The House passed an earlier version of the bill in March. 

A growing list of NCAA and WNBA players and coaches are joining in opposition to such transgender sports laws. 

“Transgender inclusion is so crucial for the health, safety and wellbeing of transgender kids,” said Minnesota Lynx Forward Napheesa Collier, during a press conference Friday. “I consider transgender women my teammates, not a threat. The NCAA has to take action and withdraw all athletic competition from states considering harmful and anti-transgender sports bills.”

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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