Oklahoma, Arizona Legislatures Pass Bills Banning Transgender Athletes from Competing in Girl’s Sports

An oil drilling rig is seen near a parking lot in front of the state capitol building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma U.S. March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Luc Cohen/File Photo

Arizona and Oklahoma passed bills on Thursday that would ban transgender youth from participating in girls’ sports, the latest in a flurry of state legislation passed by Republicans on the hot-button, election year issue.

In addition to the Republican-sponsored “Save Women’s Sports Act”, Arizona lawmakers passed legislation that would prohibit physicians from providing gender-affirming surgery to minors. Both bills are now headed to the desk of Governor Doug Ducey, also a Republican.

The votes largely fell along party lines.

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“Why would we be legislating bullying against children who want to… participate in sports?,” Democratic Representative Kelli Butler said in an emotional speech dissenting the bill before Arizona lawmakers on Thursday. “That’s not the country that I know and that I am proud to be a part of.”

A bill also titled “Save Women’s Sports Act” passed in the Oklahoma Legislature on Thursday.

Supporters of these bans argue they are needed to ensure transgender athletes do not have an unfair advantage in sports. Opponents of the bans, including advocates for transgender people and organizations like the Women’s Sports Foundation, say that such measures are discriminatory, and they advocate for the inclusion of transgender students in school sports.

Arizona also passed a third bill, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks of gestation, with physicians facing fines of up to $10,000 and suspension or revocation of their license if found not in compliance.

Governors in states including Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Iowa have already signed into law bills that ban transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports.

Similar bills were vetoed by the governors of Utah and Indiana this week, signaling the reluctance of some Republican leaders to align with the broader party that sees these issue as a winning strategy to corral voters ahead of the U.S. midterm elections.

Republican lawmakers in both states said earlier this week they planned to override the governors’ vetoes. Leaders of the Utah Legislature said they would convene on Friday for a veto override session.

SOURCE: Reuters – Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Aurora Ellis

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