Families, faith leaders and LGBTQ advocates say a bill to ban transgender children and youth from participating in their preferred sports teams is dehumanizing, discriminatory and harmful to Arizona children.
Rep. Daniel Hernandez, a Tucson Democrat and a founding member of the LGBTQ Caucus, called the Republican-backed measure the “show me your genitals bill” at a Thursday press conference.
House Bill 2706 mandates a medical review of a student’s anatomy, hormone levels and genetics if the student’s biological sex is disputed while seeking to participate in sports programs at public and private schools, community colleges and state universities.
The measure, which was introduced by Phoenix Republican Rep. Nancy Barto, would divide all interscholastic and intramural sports teams into male, female and co-ed teams “based on biological sex.” Under that definition, the measure would prohibit transgender girls from participating in girl’s sports.
At the press conference, Chelsa Morrison of Phoenix said HB2706 was intrusive.
“To legislators: Keep out of our children’s pants. It’s unimaginably creepy and beyond disturbing. Shame on y’all,” she said. “This bill will harm and traumatize all girls. Our kids, their bodies, their medical records are none of your business.”
Morrison’s 11-year-old daughter, Marilyn, then walked up to the podium to speak.
“This bill is a violation of basic human rights,” she said. “Please step into my shoes for one moment and try to imagine what it’s like to be forced against your will to have someone look in your pants just to play a sport.”
Chelsa Morrison — who is also a board member of GLSEN, a group that advocates for safer learning environments for LGBTQ youth — added that HB2706 is “discriminatory” and “cruel.”
“There should be no reason that people are willing to put out a ‘panty patrol’ when there has not been an issue in sports, and there’s no competitive edge,” she said. “Trans girls are girls, trans boys are boys.”
The proposal has garnered national attention. Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a Feb. 20 tweet that “trans athletes are not a threat.” Chris Mosier, an Olympic athlete who in 2015 became the first known transgender athlete to be on a U.S. national men’s team, called out HB2706 as a “targeted discrimination against trans youth.”
On Thursday, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in a statement HB2706 would enshrine bullying in statute.
Allowing room for every child to thrive as individuals, regardless of their gender orientation, is key to future prosperity. Our laws must provide equal protections for students and shouldn’t enshrine any form of bullying in statute. AZ Legislators should vote no on HB2706. pic.twitter.com/sEWQSHtVBG
— Mayor Kate Gallego (@MayorGallego) February 27, 2020
Barto: ‘There are two sexes’
HB2706, dubbed by Barto as the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” also allows people and institutions that suffer “any direct or indirect harm” from violations to the transgender participation ban to sue for damages.
During a House Republican Caucus discussion on Feb. 26, Barto said it’s “critical” for lawmakers to define in state statute what women’s sports are.
“There are two sexes, and we need to draw the line to favor women to make sure they have a level playing field,” Barto said.
Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, said Barto’s proposal is not discriminatory toward the transgender community. Other lawmakers voiced support for HB2706 by making transphobic remarks, insisting transgender girls and transgender women are men.
“What we are dealing with is men competing in women’s sports,” Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, said.
Jeannine Brandel, president of the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s executive board, told Arizona Mirror in January that girls in school sports are not facing disadvantages because of their transgender peers.
“I have not seen an unfair advantage,” she said. “In my opinion, transgender people aren’t (transitioning) to compete and gain an advantage as an athlete.”
There are already rules in Arizona schools to evaluate requests from transgender youth who want to participate in their preferred team.
“All students should have the opportunity to participate in AIA activities in a manner that is consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the sex listed on a student’s eligibility for participation in interscholastic athletics or in a gender that does not match the sex at birth,” an AIA policy states.
HB2706 is ready for consideration by the full House.
HB2706 puts religious ‘scripture upside down’
Michael Soto, executive director of Equality Arizona, pushed back against the notion that there are only male and female genders.
“We are told there are only two options, but the truth is that there are many and the proof is in our young people today – the proof is in the lived experience of trans people like me, intersex people,” Soto said. “The proof is even in cisgender people: There’s no one way to be a man or a woman or any other gender. There’s no one way to do it, we all do it differently.”
Rev. Bill Lyons of the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ said HB2706 puts religious “scripture upside down.”
“Often, opposition to trans rights is framed in religious language. Scripture teaches us there’s conflicts between our bodies and spirits. Every time scripture speaks to that conflict between body and spirit, God affirms spirit wins,” he said. “No one has the right to tell a child’s spirit who they are. Our kids deserve all of our support, affirmation, our love to live into who their spirits tells them who they are
“This bill puts body before spirit, and sacred text always puts spirit before body,” Lyons said.
Speakers at the Thursday press event said the legislation would deprive transgender youth, who are at higher risk of depression and suicide, of important opportunities to feel included, make friends, be active, and build confidence and teamwork skills.
“Our job as adults is to make sure that every child in Arizona is able to grow in a safe and affirming environment, and that should be the same for trans children,” Soto said.
Angela Hughey, president of ONE Community, an organization that gathers people and businesses supportive of the LGBTQ communities, said there are roughly 150 businesses who oppose HB2706, including the Arizona Diamondbacks.