Keeping Women’s Sports Fair
By Rep. Barb Gleim (R-Carlisle)
Some of my best memories from my youth are from playing sports. Those experiences taught me teamwork, leadership, confidence, perseverance, and much more – all qualities that have combined to make me a successful businesswoman, mother, lawmaker, and even occasionally, a livestock farmer. I participated in women’s competitive school sports during a time when women were fighting for equality, on and off the field.
Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972, ensures that “No person in the Unites States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” It was designed to provide equal access and quality, as well as scholarship opportunities. At the time, Congress understood that even when height, weight, and size were equal, males are stronger and generate more explosive force, so that if males and females are forced to compete against each other, the physical safety of females is at risk.
However, within the first 100 days of the Biden Administration, through executive order, the Title IX law was violated, when the new order required that biological males be permitted to compete on womens’ sports teams. Who knew that reversing nearly 50 years of advances for women in federal law was such a big issue for America that it required immediate unilateral action?
In response to the executive order, four of my colleagues and I introduced the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act (HB972). Our legislation is designed to continue to allow women athletes to compete on a level playing field at the high school and collegiate levels. HB 972 will ensure that all biological female athletes compete in the female category.
Critics have said that there is no problem to be fixed here, but the majority of people disagree. In one year, 275 high school boys ran faster than the lifetime best of World Champion Allyson Felix. In a 2020 Swedish study, males generally maintained strength and other advantages after a year of cross-sex hormones. preprints202005.0226.v1 (1).pdf (wsimg.com) A new study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows biological males maintain an athletic advantage over biological women. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/trans-women-retain-athletic-edge-after-year-hormone-therapy-study-n1252764
Science tells us that males are generally bigger, faster, and stronger than females. They have larger hearts and lungs, denser bones and stronger muscles. No amount of hormone therapy can undo all of those advantages. Competitive sports has always been segregated by biological sex, not identity, and changing it now, is not only a safety issue, but would displace a deserving girl.
Also in response to the inherent inequities that resulted from biological men competing against women in the 2020 Olympics, The Women’s Sports Policy Working Group headed by great women sports athletes like Martina Navratilova, wrote a policy brief with recommendations for change in statute intended for this current administration. https://womenssportspolicy.org
In a recent Wall Street Journal article https://www.wsj.com/articles/joe-bidens-first-day-began-the-end-of-girls-sports-11611341066, Olympic track-and-field coach Linda Blade told the author, “The leadership skills, all the benefits society gets from letting girls have their protected category so that competition can be fair, all the advances of women’s rights, that’s going to be diminished.” When we ignore biological reality, girls get hurt. The message to girls is: You deserve equal opportunities, except in sports. Allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports, in effect, ends women’s competitive sport. We will have male sports and co-ed.
While I am sensitive to multiple trans issues within the community, and we should tirelessly continue to help youth of today, the solution can not be destroying fairness for girls and women. One girl displaced in her journey through competitive sport is too many. Trans athletes who are biologically male must be welcome to participate and excel in sports. As one Newsweek article states, “…the just and rational solution is to ask trans woman athletes to compete against other biological males – on boys’ teams where their inclusion does no damage to the fairness of the competition.” www.newsweek.com/transgender-threat-womens-sports-opinion. Another option is to play competitive co-ed sports that can be equally as fulfilling for all.
The US Supreme Court has allowed distinctions to be made on the basis of sex, recognizing that a “failure to acknowledge even or most basic biological differences … risks making the guarantee of equal protection superficial, and so disserving it.” Tuan Anh Nguyen v. INS, 533, U.S. 53, 73, 121 S. Ct. 2053, 2066 (2001). It is this obvious fact that has long allowed Title IX to provide for sex specific sports. The Supreme Court will have to address this issue since the Executive Order was enacted. I believe it will once again recognize that laws protecting women through the recognition of real biological differences are constitutional.
Next year we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Title IX. Let’s make sure it is still there for us to celebrate. There is never a bad time to preserve the rights of women and girls in sports.
House Bill 972 aims to ensure women can continue to compete on a level playing field.