Louisiana becomes 18th state to ban biological males from competing in girls' sports

Athletes compete in the 5,000-meter final during the Oregon Relays at Hayward Field on April 23, 2021, in Eugene, Oregon. | Getty Images/Steph Chambers

Louisiana has become the latest state to pass legislation preventing biological boys from competing in female school sports competitions after the state's Democratic governor did not veto or directly approve the legislation.

The Fairness in Women's Sports Act (S.B. 44) became law after Gov. John Bel Edwards did not veto or sign the legislation within 10 days of the Secretary of the Senate delivering the bill to him, as required by state law.

The Secretary of the Senate sent the bill to Edwards on May 25, just days after the Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representatives approved the legislation.

On May 23, the Senate voted 32-6 to pass the bill, with nearly half of the Senate Democrats joining all Republicans in supporting the measure. Six days earlier, the House of Representatives voted 72-21 in favor of the bill, with a small number of Democrats joining their Republican colleagues in voting for the legislation.

The bill requires public schools, some private elementary and secondary schools, and colleges that receive state funding to designate sports teams by biological sex. The law defines "biological sex" as "a statement of a student's biological sex on the student's official birth certificate which is entered at or near the time of the student's birth." Additionally, the act allows girls to take legal action if a violation of the law makes them feel as if they were "deprived of an athletic opportunity."

"Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., was designed to ensure that women are free from discrimination on the basis of sex in both education and athletics so that women would be afforded the opportunity to compete for athletic scholarships and to potentially launch their own athletic careers after they have completed their education," the bill reads. 

The bill justifies prohibiting trans-identified males from women's sports by citing the "inherent differences between men and women" that give biological males an unfair advantage over their biological female counterparts in athletics. The document contends that men generally have "denser and stronger bones, tendons, and ligaments, larger hearts, greater lung volume per body mass, a higher red blood cell count, and higher hemoglobin as well as higher natural levels of testosterone."

These characteristics affect "traits such as hemoglobin levels, body fat content, the storage and use of carbohydrates, and the development of Type II muscle fibers, all of which result in men being able to generate higher speed and power during physical activity."

After mentioning that "strength, speed, and endurance" are "generally found in greater degrees in biological males than biological females," the bill stresses that "scientific studies have established that the benefits that natural testosterone provides to male athletes is not diminished through the use of testosterone suppression." A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that even after one year of taking feminizing hormones, biological male athletes maintain an advantage over their female counterparts. 

Meridian Baldacci, a spokesperson for Family Policy Alliance, the lobbying arm of the Christian organization Focus on the Family, called the bill's passage a "milestone in the movement to Save Girls' Sports" in a Monday statement to The Christian Post. 

"In protecting female athletes, Louisiana joins Idaho (the first state to protect girls' sports), along with Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Alabama, Tennessee, South Dakota, West Virginia, Texas, Florida, Iowa, Utah, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, South Carolina and Indiana. Many of these states, including Louisiana, extend protections for female athletes who have achieved even higher levels of competition at the collegiate level," Baldacci explained.

Baldacci credited the Louisiana Family Forum for the outcome, an organization that promotes family-centered public policy issues.

In an interview with CP, LFF President Gene Mills revealed that his group has been doing grassroots work to protect women's sports, including last year, when the governor vetoed the bill. 

Mills and his team at LFF communicate with close to 500 churches in Louisiana, and they kept the congregations informed about the content of S.B. 44 and what it accomplishes. They also sent out biweekly communications and gathered people to make their voices heard during the legislative process through their 60-Second Brigade Action Alerts.

"The idea of biological men competing against women instinctively runs contrary to what Louisiana values. So it wasn't difficult to put together bipartisan support from Democrats, independents, African-Americans, and Spanish communities across the board," Mills told CP.

"Sexual politics has no place on the sporting field, and this measure was a modest proposal to protect female sports from exploitation by biological boys," he continued. 

Edwards spoke out in opposition to the bill during a Monday news conference, claiming he did not veto the bill this time around as he believed lawmakers would merely override it. 

"Whether it's intended or not, the effect is to tell ... send a strong message to at least some of these young people that they shouldn't be who they think they are, who they believe they are, who they know that they are," he said. "And I find that very distressing. I do believe that we can be better than that."

The Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation's largest LGBT advocacy organizations, urged the governor to veto S.B. 44 after it passed through the state's House of Representatives in a statement last month. The group slammed the legislation as "a discriminatory attack" that "further isolates students that are already struggling to live a normal childhood."

In a statement last year after he vetoed the bill, Edwards said that "discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana."

The issue of trans-identifying males competing in women's sports took a national spotlight this year as Lia Thomas, who competed for three years on the University of Pennsylvania's men's swimming team, shattered female swimming records competing for the women's team. 

One female swimmer who spoke anonymously with the sports website OutKick due to fear of retaliation alleged that "[p]retty much everyone individually has spoken to our coaches about not liking this."

"I think secretly everyone just knows it's the wrong thing to do," she added. "When the whole team is together, we have to be like, 'Oh my gosh, go, Lia, that's great, you're amazing.' It's very fake."

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