Sunday, April 03, 2022

Tennessee House passes bill to withhold funding if athletes compete outside of birth gender

 By Jon Styf | The Center Square Mar 31, 2022 -  Any Tennessee school district that allowed a student to compete in athletics without determining their gender based on the student’s birth certificate would lose state funding under a bill that passed Thursday in the state House.

House Bill 1895, which passed 66-22, is a follow-up to a law that went into effect last year that required districts, called Local Education Associations (LEAs) to determine a student’s birth gender. This bill, however, adds financial ramifications for a school district.

The Senate companion bill, Senate Bill 1861, passed the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.

The bill passed the House without discussion after sponsoring Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, said the bill would be subject to rules created by the Tennessee Department of Education.

In the House Government Operations Committee, there was discussion on the bill before it was recommended to pass.

“It’s important for us to, as a state, take a stand,” Ragan said, adding that funds would be withheld until a school district is in compliance.

Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, asked whether there had been a case in Tennessee that pertained to this bill and said she would prefer sports authorities to make rulings in these cases.

“It doesn’t consider each case individually and where someone might be in the process,” Johnson said. “I think that what we’re doing here is making blanket legislation for something that really should be decided by those folks who govern those sports authorities.”

Ragan said sports authority decisions have not, to this point, stopped unfair competition so it is up to the state to intervene.

“I have had some incidents reported to me unofficially,” Ragan said. “I do not have any official reports of such.”

Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, cited the case of Lia Thomas, a transgender athlete at the University of Pennsylvania who recently won the 500-yard freestyle race at the NCAA Division I women's swimming championships.

“That’s totally unfair to people who were born a woman and are competing,” Calfee said.

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