House Education passes bill that would bar transgender women from competing on women sports teams

The committee killed a similar legislation two weeks ago

By: - May 12, 2021 4:30 pm

Beth Mizell testifies in favor of her bill that would bar trans women from competing on women’s sports teams. (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)

The Louisiana House Education Committee approved a bill to ban transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s sports after disapproving of a near-identical bill last week. Two Republican members of the committee — Rep. Stephanie Hilferty of Metairie and Rep. Barbara Freiberg of Baton Rouge — voted in favor of SB 156 by Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton) Wednesday after opposing HB 542 from Rep. Beryl Amedee (R-Houma) on May 4. 

Amedee’s “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” was opposed by six members of the committee and supported by five. On Wednesday, Mizell’s “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” was supported by ten lawmakers and opposed by four.

Mizell said Wednesday that she doesn’t intend for her bill to exclude anyone, but that it intends to make sure that “biological girls…compete with biological girls.” Her bill differs from Amedee’s in that it doesn’t seek to ban trans boys and men from competing in boys’ and men’s sports.

“What I’m trying to do here is to protect what we’ve done for women in the course of, at least my generation,” Mizell testified. “And make sports continue to be a fair playing field.”

Rep. Aimee Freeman (D-New Orleans) told Mizell her bill isn’t a solution to a problem but “a discriminatory tool against transgender people.”

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association already has a restrictive position that makes it basically impossible for transgender high school students to participate on sports teams, Dyland Waguespack, with Louisiana Trans Advocates, said in an interview last month. 

The LHSAA doesn’t allow students who compete on sports teams that don’t match the sex assigned to them at birth, unless they have undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Even then, the student must have undergone sex reassignment (or gender confirmation) surgery before puberty or have had all sex reassignment surgery available — including genitalia changed — for at least two years. Their gender identity must also be legally changed before they can compete, under the existing high school athletic rules.

Waguespack said he didn’t know of a single transgender high school athlete in the state.

“Have we had any specific problems in Louisiana with this happening in any high schools?” Freeman asked Mizell Wednesday.

“No, we’ve not,” Mizell responded. “But do we want to wait until there’s a problem before we create the framework to go by?” 

While the audience in the committee room for Amedee’s anti-transgender bill May 4 ago was made up mostly of people who opposed it — and who cheered and applauded when the committee killed it  — the audience for Mizell’s bill was made up mostly of supporters.

When asked after committee why she changed her vote after opposing similar legislation two weeks ago, She said she believes the NCAA and LHSAA should oversee this issue, not the legislature. Representatives from either organization weren’t in committee to speak.

Freeman said she also wanted to let House decide since it already passed in Senate.

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.

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is a former Louisiana Illuminator reporter. Prior to working with the Illuminator, Canicosa worked for Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon. Canicosa earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.