Tennessee governor signs criminal law for transgender athlete

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – Tennessee will soon add harsh penalties to public schools that allow transgender athletes to participate in girls’ sports, under legislation recently signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee.

Lee quietly signed the proposal last Friday without comment. The governor had previously signed a measure last year requiring student-athletes to prove their gender match, which is listed on the student’s “original” birth certificate. If a birth certificate was not available, parents must provide another type of proof “indicating the student’s gender at birth.”

This year, the GOP-controlled Legislative Assembly decided to add sanctions to this ban – which is in fact the case, even if a lawsuit challenging its constitution comes through the court. A lawsuit is tentatively scheduled for March 2023.

Under the bill, Tennessee’s Department of Education would withhold a portion of state funding from local school districts that cannot determine a student’s gender for participation in middle or high school sports. The measure does not specify exactly how much money the state should withhold.

The bill enters into force on 1 July.

“Telling transgender students that they can not participate as they really are is like completely excluding them from sports – depriving them of the opportunities available to their peers and sending the message that they are not worthy of a full life, “said Henry Seaton, ACLU of Tennessee’s transgender justice lawyer, in a statement.

Tennessee lawmakers are also putting forward a separate bill that would ban transgender athletes from participating in female college sports. Republicans have also pushed for teachers and school districts to use the pronoun that a transgender student does not prefer, freeing teachers from facing employment penalties and protecting schools from civil liability. Both proposals are expected to pass the general meeting.

Last year, no other state passed more laws targeting transgender people than Tennessee. It included banning transgender athletes from practicing girls in public high school or middle school sports.

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