The state of Arkansas has signed a bill banning transgender athletes from competing on female sports teams. The move follows similar legislation signed in Mississippi earlier this month and represents a major step back in transgender rights in the state. However, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson put the law into place on March 25, saying that he agrees with the “intention” of the law, known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.
- Hutchinson believes this is about fairness. In a statement released following the law, Governor Hutchinson insists that its introduction has nothing to do with discrimination against transgender people and everything to do with fairness for women born with female anatomy. “I signed the law as a fan of women’s sports from basketball to soccer and including many others in which women compete successfully,” he explained. “This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition. As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law. This will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.”
- It seems like laws like this are becoming a trend. Mississippi and Arkansas may be the first states to formally sign this kind of legislation, but they won’t be the only ones. The Associated Press reports that a mind-blowing 20 states have introduced similar legislation to prohibit transgender athletes from competing on women’s sports teams.
- Civil rights groups are pushing back. Understandably, these laws will only increase the stigma and discrimination transgender youth face on a daily basis. American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas director Holly Dickson said that the law “is a discriminatory and shameful attempt by politicians to stigmatize and exclude transgender teens,” according to ABC News.
- The ACLU believes Hutchinson hasn’t thought about how transgender kids will be affected by the law. ACLU president Alphonso David said: “Transgender kids are kids who just want to play, and they deserve that chance. The fact that neither Governor Hutchinson nor the legislators who voted to pass this bill have named a single example of what they are legislating against underscores that this is simply a politically motivated bill for the sake of discrimination itself.” Here’s hoping this law is challenged in court and fairness wins out.