The Center Square
Responding to a bill in the Tennessee Legislature that would ban transgender individuals from participating in girls’ middle school and high school athletics, Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday that trans participation would “destroy women’s sports.”
Speaking to reporters at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Lee stopped short of voicing support for a Tennessee bill that would prohibit trans students from participating in middle and high school girls’ athletics, but he spoke to the issue.
“Transgenders participating in women’s sports will destroy women’s sports,” Lee said. “It will ruin the opportunity for girls to earn scholarships. It will put a glass ceiling back over women that hasn’t been there. I think it’s bad for women and for women’s sports.”
Lee said the Tennessee bill came about as a result of a recent executive order by President Joe Biden specifically allowing transgender athletes to participate in school sports. Lee called the Biden executive order “tremendous overreach of the federal government.”
House Bill 3, sponsored by Culleoka Republican Scott Cepicky, is framed on an almost identical bill by Cepicky that passed the House, 73-13, last June. HB 3 advanced through the K-12 House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday.
Presenting the bill Tuesday, Cepicky acknowledged likely legal challenges if the bill is passed, saying legal counsel “advised to be very narrow on my definition because anything I say can be used further down the line.”
Cepicky said during debate Tuesday, “The intent of the bill is to maintain the competitive balance of our female sports to maintain the safety for our female athletes, and to provide the opportunity for scholarships and advancement of recognition for our female athletes.”
Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, told committee members the bill discriminates against transgender children, and it should be considered by the House Health Committee.
“This bill really involves a lot of science that hasn’t been addressed because of a refusal to address it. I think there’s a lack of understanding,” Clemmons said. “We are looking at this from a perspective of 50 years ago – boy versus girl – that science has evolved, our understanding as evolved. It’s not just black and white, boy versus girl.”
The committee also heard testimony from Alex Chapman of Knox County, a mother of a transgender student who would be affected if the legislation was enacted.
“This directly threatens the health and well being, privacy, autonomy and safety of our transgender, gender diverse and intersex children in schools and athletics,” Chapman said. “Aside from the harmful messaging, discriminatory and unlawful implications, this bill will lead to costly litigation, borne by the taxpayers.”
HB 3 awaits consideration in the House Education Administration Committee.