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Anti-trans high school sports ban advances out of committee

A series of 10 bubbles show where the bill is in the process of becoming a law. Green light bubbles show that Senate File 133 has been "filed," advanced out of "committee," and passed "1st, 2nd and 3rd reading" in its house of origin. A further green circle shows it has now passed another committee. Four more blank circles show the path ahead of the bill through another "1st, 2nd, and 3rd reading" and must be "signed by the governor."
Jeff Victor
Wyoming Public Media/Laramie Reporter
Senate File 133 advanced out of the House Education Committee with a 5-4 vote. A bill has to pass in both houses before it can be signed by the governor and made state law.

A bill banning transgender girls and women from female high school sports is one step closer to becoming law, advancing out of its second committee.

Senate File 133 would prohibit trans girls and women from joining high school sports teams consistent with their gender identity. The bill bans those students from joining any female-designated teams that compete against other schools.

Sen. Wendy Schuler (R-Evanston) said she brought the bill at the behest of parents in the state, although she admitted there are very few trans athletes in Wyoming. She told the House Education Committee she believes that trans athletes have an unfair advantage in women's sports.

"And so fairness goes out the window if they're allowed to compete against females in the female lane," Schuler said.

But it wasn't all about fairness, she added.

"There's questions of motels and locker rooms," Schuler said. "Those concerns are coming from parents who say 'I don't want my daughter in a motel room with a trans athlete. We don't know where they are in terms of their transition.' Not only does it put the female athlete in a precarious position. But it also puts the transgender athlete in a precarious position. And they've had to get an extra motel room, and that's fine, but it drives up costs and it also puts that trans athlete in a tough situation because then they're isolated even more."

But Wyoming Equality Director Sara Burlingame said an outright ban targeting transgender students is not the way to address these concerns.

"Unlike other states, we are not extremists. We don't have the director of the statewide equality group saying, 'No matter what kind of physical dominance or advantage a trans student may have, they must be able to play no matter what,'" she said.

Burlingame said the issue deserved a more nuanced approach than either ignoring the issue or instituting a total ban.

"The answer is not 'always,'" Burlingame said. "But the answer also shouldn't be 'never.'"

The Department of Education testified in favor of the bill. But the Wyoming Education Association said this bill stigmatizes against a group of young people who already face intense prejudices and who are at a higher risk for depression and suicide nationwide.

Young trans people also pushed back on the bill. Santi Murillo, a former University of Wyoming athlete, said there's a great deal of diversity among the human race and that it's inaccurate to say men and trans women are inherently bigger, stronger or faster than cisgender women. Murillo also said transitioning isn't easy, and the people who take it on are doing so sincerely.

"I don't think anyone is going to lie about being trans just to gain some sort of athletic advantage," she said.

Others argued the bill would force students, transgender or otherwise, to prove their girlhood — if they are too talented or don't seem feminine enough. Rep. Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie) said the bill is discriminatory and implies that women and girls are weak.

"So, I think what we have here is a product of ideas about how we view women and how we view queer folks," she said. "And I don't think it is scientific. I don't think it is based in what is the most sound decision based on evidence. And it's also unconstitutional. We still have a ban in this bill. We are still going to get sued."

The committee advanced the bill with a 5-4 vote. It must also pass in the House Appropriations Committee before it can head to the House floor for further debate. It must pass three readings in the full house before lawmakers can send the bill to the governor.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the bill had advanced "to the House floor" but given the significant provisions of the bill (extra money for potential litigation), it must also pass in the House Appropriations Committee before it can be debated on the House floor.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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