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Arizona state House passes bill barring biological males from girls’ sports

It would apply to public schools, private schools, and colleges

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Lawmakers in Arizona moved a step closer to barring biological males from competing in girls' sports.

According to a report Tuesday from the Arizona Republic, the state's House of Representatives passed a bill that would close off designated female sports "to students of the male sex":

The emotional hours-long debate on House Bill 2706 culminated in a party-line vote of 31-29, sending the measure to the state Senate, where it will become another flashpoint in the culture wars at the state Capitol.

Rep. Nancy Barto, a Phoenix Republican who is sponsoring the measure, argued it is necessary in the face of a lawsuit in Connecticut brought by the conservative Scottsdale-based group Alliance Defending Freedom and students who argue they unfairly lost out in competition with transgender athletes.

H.B. 2706 would require sports or teams sponsored by educational institutions to be designated as either coed, male or female, with biological males not being allowed to compete in female-designated events.

The bill also says that in the event of a dispute about participation on a sport or team, "A student may establish the student's sex by presenting a signed physician's statement that indicates the student's sex based on an analysis of the student's genetic makeup."

The Arizona Republic story points out that a previous version of the bill had more stringent requirements for establishing biological sex in a dispute — which included determining testosterone levels — that were amended after pushback from Democrats, who said they were too invasive.

Language in the findings section of the bill declares that "biological differences between females and males, especially as they relate to natural levels of testosterone, 'explain the male and female secondary sex characteristics which develop during puberty and have lifelong effects, including those most important for success in sport," citing a paper from the Duke Law Center for Sports Law and Policy.

The proposed restrictions would apply to public schools and private schools that are part of interscholastic sports organizations, as well as public colleges and community colleges and other higher learning institutions that are members of national athletic associations such as the NCAA.

Naturally, the bill has drawn criticism from those who say that student athletes' biological makeup shouldn't trump their perceived gender identity in the realm of athletics.

"Transgender girls are girls, and transgender boys are boys," Amanda Parris, policy counsel for the ACLU of Arizona, said of the bill in a statement against the legislation last Friday. "Transgender students participate in sports for the same reasons that other students do. They want enjoy the activities, challenge themselves and be a part of a team."

"Trans athletes are not a threat. We need to protect trans kids—and all LGBTQ+ kids—and ensure they feel safe and welcomed at school," Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said last month, urging lawmakers to reject the bill.

Meanwhile, legislators in several other states have also sought to address the question of transgender athletes in girls' sports. Similar bills have so far been proposed or filed in Idaho, Missouri, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Washington, Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio and Alabama.

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