RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Transgender girls in North Carolina would no longer be allowed to play on the school sports teams that align with their gender identity under a proposal that received final legislative approval on Thursday.
The GOP-controlled state House voted 62-43 to send the bill to the desk of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who has little power to block it now that Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. House Republicans were joined by one Democrat — Rep. Michael Wray of Northampton County — in voting for the measure.
Initial votes in the House and Senate indicate any veto from Cooper, a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, would likely be overridden in the final weeks of the session. Cooper’s office did not respond immediately Thursday to an email seeking comment.
At least 22 other states have now banned trans athletes from participating in the school sports consistent with their gender identity. North Carolina, like many other Republican-led state legislatures, could soon push several other bills across the finish line that target trans youth, including a gender-affirming care ban for minors and a requirement that teachers alert a child’s parents of name or pronoun changes.
The athletics bill would designate sports by sex assigned at birth. Transgender girls would be unable to participate in girls’ middle school, high school and college sports.
Restrictions would apply to state universities and community colleges, as well as public and some private middle and high schools. They would not apply to intramural college sports, nor would they prevent trans boys from playing on boys’ teams.
Students would also have a right to sue if they are harmed by a trans student violating the restrictions.
Asked repeatedly throughout the legislative process how the gender restrictions would be enforced, bill sponsors did not provide a clear answer.
Bill supporters such as Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the socially conservative North Carolina Values Coalition, say the legislation is needed to protect the safety and well-being of young female athletes and to preserve scholarship opportunities for them.
“Women and girls who train for countless hours and years in their sports will have a level playing field, and their opportunities will be protected if this legislation becomes law,” she said.
But several Democrats denounced the bill as discrimination disguised as a safety precaution. The restrictions unfairly pick on a small number of students, they argued, noting that only two trans girls had been approved by the state’s high school athletic association to play this year in North Carolina.
“We’re sending a very strong message to a very vulnerable group of young people that says you are different, you’re not allowed to participate,” said Rep. Deb Butler of New Hanover County. “It’s cruel.”
Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Hannah Schoenbaum, The Associated Press