Bill that would bar transgender women from competing on women sports teams dies in committee

An audience of mostly opponents of the bill cheered and applauded its defeat

Opponents of Rep. Baryl Amedee's anti-transgender in sports bill pose with Rep. Aimee Freeman after the bill dies in committee. Freeman voted against the bill. (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)

The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” anti-transgender legislation introduced by Rep. Beryl Amedee (R-Houma), was killed in the Louisiana House Education Committee Tuesday when six committee members opposed it and only five supported it. An audience made up mostly of opponents of Amedee’s bill cheered and applauded the defeat of the bill which sought to ban transgender women from participating in women and girls sports.

“Girls and women deserve the opportunity to compete in fair competition where their hard work pays off,” Amedee said to the committee. 

She said, “Allowing males to compete in girls sports reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women and forces them to be spectators in their own sport.” Amedee acknowledged that she isn’t aware of any trans girls or women competing in female sports competitions in Louisiana. She called it a “preemptive bill.”

Her bill included this language:  “Inherent differences between men and women range from chromosomal and hormonal differences to physiological differences… which result in men being able to generate higher speed and power during physical activity.” 

However, Amedee’s legislation would not only have blocked transgender women and girls from female sports competitions, it would have also blocked transgender men and boys from male sports competitions. 

Representatives Amedee, Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge), Charles Owen (R-Rosepine), Vincent St. Blanc (R-Franklin) and Phillip Tarver (R-Lake Charles) voted in favor of the bill.

Opposing it were representatives Ken Brass (D-Vacherie), Freeman, Barbara Freiberg (R-Baton Rouge), Stephanie Hilferty (R-Metairie), Patrick Jefferson (D-Homer) and Tammy Phelps (D-Shreveport).

Jennifer Marusak, the executive director of the Ports Association of Louisiana and a former student-athlete, testified in support of Amedee’s bill Tuesday, saying, “If I had been competing against biological males in high school or college, my name would not be in any of the record books in high school or college now, and my letterman jacket wouldn’t be filled with patches.”

Rep. Aimee Freeman (D-New Orleans) disagreed that allowing transgender women to compete in women sports discriminates against women. But she did accuse Amedee’s bill of “discriminating against transgender individuals.”

Dr. Nithya Ravindran, a psychiatry fellow at Tulane University who spoke in opposition to the bill, said the long term mental health impacts of losing a game or not winning a title is probably minimal, but “research consistently demonstrates that gender-diverse youth who are supported to live and explore the gender role that’s consistent with their gender identity have better mental health outcomes.”

“To add to the risk of mental illness with bills like this that further discriminate against trans-kids would be especially harmful,” Ravindran testified, “especially in a space where we want kids to feel safe and supported and to learn and grow.”

Banning transgender girls and women from sports has been a common cause among conservative lawmakers across the country this year. Bills to do so have been introduced in more than 31 states in 2020 or 2021, according to the ACLU

Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton) introduced a similar bill Thursday that bans transgender women and girls from female sports, and her legislation was advanced without objection by the Senate Education Committee. The bill appears likely to be approved by the full Senate. 

While Mizell’s bill likely has the support of the majority of lawmakers, Gov. John Bel Edwards has said publicly that he intends to veto any anti-transgender legislation that reaches his desk. It’s unclear there are enough lawmakers supporting the anti-trans legislation to override a veto. Two-thirds of lawmakers in the House and Senate would have to vote for such an override.

Lawmakers have only overturned a gubernatorial veto twice in the last 40 years.

Tuesday’s meeting was chaired by Rep. Mark Wright, the vice chair of the committee. Chair Ray Garofalo was not present. The Legislative Black Caucus sought his removal last week after Garofalo, the sponsor of a bill that would prohibited lessons about systemic racism or sexism, suggested that there was some good to slavery.  House Speaker Clay Schexnayder has not removed Garofalo as chair, but his absence Tuesday was not explained.

When a reporter asked Wright if him acting as chair was indefinite or just for today’s committee meeting, Wright said it was just for today, as far as he knows.