GOP-led Assembly passes bills banning transgender athletes from competing in women’s, girls’ sports
Callahan among Republicans in support; Evers indicates he would veto
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Editor
MADISON – The GOP-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly on Wednesday, June 16 passed two bills that would bar transgender women and girls from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.
The bills would allow students at public and private schools and colleges in Wisconsin to only join teams that correspond to the biological gender assigned to them by a doctor at birth.
Sports classified as “co-ed” would be excluded.
More than 100 similar bills have been introduced in over 30 states.
Wisconsin’s measures, Assembly Bills 195 and 196, passed along party lines, with 59 Republicans in favor and 38 Democrats opposed.
Rep. Calvin Callahan (R-Tomahawk) was among the Republicans who voted in favor of the legislation.
The Tomahawk Leader reached out to Callahan for comment regarding the bills, but had not received a response as of press time on Monday, June 21.
Republicans in support of the legislation have argued that transgender women competing in girls’ sports have an unfair physical advantage.
Rep. Barbara Dittrich (R-Oconomowoc), a sponsor of the bills, said the bills are “about fairness and inclusion, making room in competitive sports for everyone to feel comfortable.”
“This isn’t bigotry. This is science,” said Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), another sponsor of the legislation. “This isn’t a hate bill. This is a science bill. Women’s sports will come to an end. Women deserve to have an equal playing field, and that’s what this bill is about.”
Opponents of the bills have pointed to the lack of need for the legislation, as well as the documented mental health issues experienced by transgender youth.
“We have not seen an epidemic of transgender girls dominating sports leagues, but we have seen an epidemic in higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicide (among transgender youth),” said Rep. Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton).
A 2020 national survey of transgender youth conducted by the Trevor Project, a “national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25,” found that 48% of LGBTQ youth reported engaging in self-harm within year prior to the survey, including over 60% of transgender and nonbinary youth.
40% of LGBTQ respondents had seriously considered attempting suicide, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered suicide.
Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Communications Director Todd C. Clark said the WIAA believes the bills are “unnecessary.”
“There are membership rules that are already in place that do not allow boys to play on girls sports teams,” Clark told the Tomahawk Leader. “With the guidance of its Sports Medical Advisory Committee, the WIAA developed, approved and implemented its Transgender Participation Policy in 2015, becoming one of the first states to create a policy to provide opportunities for transgender students while continuing to provide a level field for all student-athletes. The policy addresses participation and eligibility of transgender athletes in WIAA-sponsored athletics.”
Clark said the WIAA opposes the State Legislature “inserting itself into the decision-making process of a private, member-driven organization.”
Along with the WIAA, roughly 30 other groups registered as being against the legislation. The Association of Wisconsin School Administrators, UW-Madison, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, the State Bar of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and the Wisconsin School Psychologists Association each opposed the bills.
The Wisconsin Catholic Conference and Wisconsin Family Action Inc. registered in support.
Governor Tony Evers has indicated that he would veto the bills if they are passed by the Republican-controlled State Senate and sent to his desk.
“I don’t often weigh in on bills before they reach my desk, but I can tell you one thing for sure, as governor, I will veto any bill that is going to negatively impact our kids. Period,” Evers said at the Pride Flag raising event at the Capitol on June 1. “In fact, these sort of harmful bills and hateful policies are ‘solutions’ in search of problems that don’t exist. They’re based on some hypothetical stories of somebody else someplace else, rather than the evidence right in front of us and the harm they can and will do to our LGBTQ kids, neighbors, friends, and loved ones.”