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Protect Women’s Sports Act proposed in House

Rep. Jessica Benham, D-Allegheny, is pictured speaking about discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians on the state House of Representatives’ floor.

Five Republican state legislators have introduced the Protect Women’s Sports Act in the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 972, sponsored by Rep. Barb Gleim, R-Cumberland, is co-sponsored by Reps. Martina White, R-Philadelphia; Dawn Keefer, R-York/Cumberland; Valerie Gaydos, R-Allegheny; and Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton/Centre. Gleim said in a news conference Monday that the bill protects Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972.

“Title 9 was designed to stop discrimination and create equal athletic opportunities for women,” Gleim said during the news conference. “In complete contrast, allowing biological males to compete in girls and women’s sports destroys fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities.”

Gleim said she played three sports in high school and walked onto a club soccer team at the University of Maryland before the sport was recognized by the NCAA as an official intercollegiate women’s sport. She said allowing biological males to compete in biological female’s sports would reverse advances for women and cited a statistic that in one year, 275 high school boys ran faster times than the lifetime best of World Champion sprinter Allyson Felix.

Gleim also cited a 1996 court case, U.S. v. Virginia, that found there are “inherent differences between men and women,” and that these differences, “remain cause for celebration but not for denigration of the members of either sex or for artificial contracts on an individual’s opportunity.”

Rep. Barb Gleim, R-Cumberland, speaks during a news conference introducing the Protect Women’s Sports Act on Monday.

“There is a rich history of women fighting and lobbying to be recognized as legitimate in sport and competition that this generation and future generations of girls are at risk of losing,” Gleim said. “Coming from a single parent household as well, I don’t know what I would have accomplished today were it not for the support of my sports families. One girl displaced is too many. Enacting state legislation that protects Title 9 today will help promote gender diversity by giving biological women a fair playing field when competing.”

State Sen. Katie Muth, D-Berks/Chester/Montgomery, said the legislation is a hateful attempt to fuel a culture war over the existence of transgender people and block their participation in sports.

“It’s really disappointing and troubling that women in the majority party of the State House of Representatives would take the time and energy to prioritize and amplify legislation that doesn’t actually address any real problem,” said state Sen. Katie Muth, D-Berks/Chester/Montgomery. “Unfortunately, there’s a nationwide effort driven by political organizations to use this waste of time and resources to fundraiser and spread their harmful agenda. What’s further baffling is the claim that this legislation would advance or ensure fairness in women’s sports. I would advise the sponsors of this legislation to consider pulling this bill and instead introduce legislation that has substance and positive impact.”

The House and Senate co-chairs of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus noted that the sponsors of the anti-trans legislation failed to mention a single Pennsylvania case in which a problem was caused by allowing transgender children and young adults to participate together.

“As a former women’s swim team member in high school, I care about protecting women’s sports and know that transgender girls in no way threaten them,” said Rep. Jessica Benham, D-Allegheny and the first LGBTQ+ woman in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly. “This bill is a complete invasion of young people’s privacy in response to a non-existent issue. It’s also likely an unconstitutional violation of transgender people’s rights.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said Tuesday it is beginning a comprehensive review of the department’s regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as part of implementing President Joe Biden’s March 8 Executive Order on Guaranteeing an Educational Environment Free from Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Including Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.

The letter to stakeholders explains that OCR is undertaking a comprehensive review of the Department’s existing regulations and other actions related to Title IX by gathering the public’s views and insights on the issue of sexual harassment in school environments, including sexual violence, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This feedback will help OCR determine what additional changes to the Title IX regulations and any related agency actions may be necessary to fulfill the Executive Order. The input will also support the Department’s commitment to ensuring equal and nondiscriminatory access to education for students in schools across the nation, from pre-K-12 and in postsecondary institutions, including in extracurricular activities and other educational settings. During this review process, the existing Title IX regulations, as amended in 2020, remain in effect.

“Building educational environments free from discrimination where our nation’s students can grow and thrive is a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Today’s action is the first step in making sure that the Title IX regulations are effective and are fostering safe learning environments for our students while implementing fair processes. Sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination, including in extracurricular activities and other educational settings, threaten access to education for students of all ages. As Secretary, I will work to ensure all students–no matter their background, who they are, or how they identify–can succeed in the classroom and beyond.”

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