A year after the NCAA’s shameful promotion of University of Pennsylvania trans-swimmer Lia Thomas in women’s swimming, federal and state lawmakers are stepping up to the plate.
Since 2020, 18 states have enacted laws ensuring that the women’s category of sports is based on female sex, not an athlete’s self-identified “gender identity.” Some fifteen additional states have bills on the table, with more on the horizon. Federal legislation sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Florida) has been introduced in the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives, where it will receive high billing in the 118th Congress.
Already this year, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee and Young Women for America (YWA) leaders have been at work in Virginia, Texas, North Dakota, Missouri, Colorado, and on Capitol Hill testifying on the importance of these bills in legislatures, at rallies, and in the media. While the Biden Administration works to gut equal protections for women and girls with new rules that use “gender identity” to overrule sex, elected representatives in states and Washington, D.C., are working to thwart the impact.
Getting bills into law will be an uphill battle in many of these jurisdictions, but that is not the only measure of progress. A full court press requires action across branches of government and vigorously challenging the Biden Administration and the NCAA and sport-specific policies that allow biological male athletes to compete in women’s sports. Female athletes will not have their rights restored until laws and policies explicitly ensure that women’s sports are for women only.
Here’s a brief overview of the current state of play:
Congress: Legislation has been introduced in the new Congress, clarifying that it is a violation of federal law to permit a person whose sex is male to participate in athletic programs designated for women or girls. Challenges to Biden’s rulemaking that would gut Title IX protections for female athletes are also anticipated. Speaker Kevin McCarthy hosted an event on National Girls and Women in Sports Day to discuss the injustice, intimidation, and emotional blackmail female athletes are experiencing at the hands of sports authorities forcing compliance with policies that prioritize inclusion of trans-identifying males over female athletes in the women’s category of sport.
States: Across the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, state legislators are sponsoring bills to ensure that sports remain sex-specific and to guard female athletes from the inequity and mental abuse they face when forced to compete and undress alongside male athletes self-identifying as women. The Virginia House of Delegates was the first chamber to pass legislation this year.
Courts: In a landmark federal court victory, West Virginia’s law to base participation in sports on biological sex at all levels of schooling has been upheld in court. The presiding judge reversed his previous injunction and ruled the law was constitutional and consistent with Title IX. In a related win, the federal Eleventh Circuit ruled that policies limiting access to school locker rooms and restrooms based on biological sex are fully consistent with the Constitution and Title IX. These court decisions lay a positive foundation for ongoing action in the courts.
NCAA: CWA has expressed optimism that newly-appointed NCAA President Charlie Baker could offer a new day for protecting college women athletes from the injustice of its current policy. However, nothing in the NCAA’s posture or practice offers promise. Our rally outside the NCAA convention in January was met by silence as officials inside pushed diversity, equity, and inclusion reviews and doubled down on denying the science of the sex binary in slick guidance documents on “inclusion.” Last year, the NCAA passed the buck to national sports governing bodies to determine participation rules involving trans-identifying athletes. But that doesn’t absolve college sports from the obligation of all NCAA member institutions to comply with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Sports-specific policies are reflecting the woke culture favoring gender identity over a sex-based standard, thus sidelining female student-athletes in their own sports in a direct attack on the equality of opportunity required under Title IX.
This landscape will continue to be shaped by CWA’s leadership and advocacy in coalition with partners across the political spectrum, providing a backbone of support for courageous female athletes like YWA’s Macy Petty, Chloe Satterfield, and Halli Gravely stepping up to the front line of the fight.