South Carolina on Tuesday became the sixteenth state to enact a law prohibiting gender dysphoric males from competing in female athletics at the K-12 and collegiate levels.
Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed H.4608, the Save Women's Sports Act, a law that requires middle school, high school, and college student athletes to compete in sports leagues according to the sex on their birth certificates.
Republican state legislatures have advanced similar laws under the argument that males have natural biological advantages over females, and that permitting athletes who were born men to compete against women is unfair.
"I think the girls ought to play girls and the boys ought to play boys. That’s the way we’ve always done it," McMaster said prior to signing the bill.
The law would prohibit males who identify as female from competing against women and girls. State Senator Richard Cash (R), who helped advance the law through the legislature, said it was necessary to keep opportunities for female athletes fair in comments made after the Senate passed the bill earlier this month.
The law "will protect those who are born biologically as females from having to compete against those who are born biologically as males but identify as females,” Cash said.
Democrats opposed the law, arguing it was not needed and that those in favor of restricting transgender athletes to sports teams of their birth sex were hateful and bigoted.
"Transgender youth are not a threat to fairness in sports, and this law now needlessly stigmatizes young people who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence, make friends, and build skills like teamwork and leadership, winning and losing," said Ivy Hill, Executive Director of Gender Benders and Community Health Program Director of Campaign for Southern Equality.
Social conservative groups applauded the state.
“Male athletes do not belong in our daughters’ sports, period. This is a view shared by an overwhelming majority of Americans, as our recent polling of battleground states has shown. Biology matters, and no amount of gaslighting by woke ideologues will change that," said Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project.
“We applaud Governor McMaster and South Carolina lawmakers for taking action to protect a fair playing field for girl athletes in the Palmetto State. With 16 states now having taken this step, there is no excuse left for those states that haven’t, particularly those led by Republicans. This is now a litmus-test issue for the GOP, and voters will be paying attention to what their leaders either do or fail to do as we approach the midterms.”
Prior to the Save Women's Sports Act, the High School League of South Carolina made decisions on whether gender dysphoric students should compete on girls or boys teams on a case-by-case basis and has considered fewer than half a dozen cases per year, according to the Associated Press.