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US Critics say Missouri lawmaker's transgender bill could hurt teens at risk for suicide

21:26  18 february  2020
21:26  18 february  2020 Source:   latimes.com

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri is one of at least seven states with proposed legislation that would restrict transgender high school athletes from competing in sporting events corresponding to their preferred gender.

a close up of a sign: All gender restroom© Dreamstime/Dreamstime/TNS All gender restroom

But in Missouri the issue could go to a statewide vote for a constitutional amendment.

Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, a Republican, said she proposed the measure because of what she described as men beating women in sports. While it is unclear if this has been an issue in any Missouri schools, O’Laughlin pointed to an anecdote about a boy playing soccer against girls.

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There already are restrictions on transgender athletes in Missouri high school sports, but O’Laughlin’s legislation would outlaw entirely their participation on the team of their preferred gender. Her bill, SJR 50, has been sent to the Senate Committee on Education, which she chairs.

“I think if you want to compete in all female sports,” O’Laughlin said, “then you should be a female – a biologically born female.”

Opponents say the bill is an election-year ploy designed to gin up the conservative base of the GOP and that it is part of a larger trend of legislation targeting the transgender community.

It may be dangerous, some said, as it singles out transgender teenagers who are at high risk for suicide.

“For the last 30 years we’ve seen bills aimed at attacking the lesbian, gay, bisexual community,” said state Rep. Greg Razer, a Democrat who is one of four openly gay members of the House.

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“Now the ire has shifted to our transgender brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, I think that segment of our community is behind the gay and lesbian segment in terms of acceptance. I don’t know if people are afraid of what they don’t understand … But it’s disturbing. And it’s something that we’re going to have to fight very hard.”

O’Laughlin is proceeding with the bill despite those concerns.

“We can’t be responsible for everyone’s mental health,” she said.

“Any time a person has a struggle – and this would be a struggle for a person – I have sympathy for that. I really do,” she said. “But I don’t think that we rewrite the rules for the entire society because of that. I think we try to find a way to support that individual and help them work their way through it.”

Transgender males – those transitioning from female to male — can get permission to participate in boys athletics, according to the Missouri State High School Activities Association.

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However, transgender females — those transitioning from male to female — are forbidden from participating in girls athletics unless they have received medical or hormone treatment for at least a year. In order to maintain eligibility, the student must provide “continuing medical documentation that the appropriate hormone levels are being maintained,” according to MSHSAA.

After a student has participated in a sport consistent with their gender identity, their eligibility is binding to that identity.

Under O’Laughlin’s proposed legislation, the constitution would be amended to define biological sex and require students to participate in sporting events corresponding to it.

In other states, similar legislation has been fueled by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian nonprofit organization that advocates for “religious liberty, defending the sanctity of life, and protecting marriage and the family,” according to the organization’s website.

ADF Legal started this campaign in June, when the group filed a federal Title IX discrimination complaint against the state of Connecticut on behalf of three high school track and field athletes. The three high school athletes also filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Connecticut on Feb. 12, according to the Associated Press.

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The complaint requests that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigate what it described as the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference denying girls equal opportunities for participation and success in athletic activities and thereby violating Title IX.

Though the group’s Title IX lawsuit hasn’t been resolved, the lawsuit paired with legislation at the state level is part of the group’s larger effort to “promote women’s equality in education and sports,” according to the group’s website.

While ADF’s argument is similar to O’Laughlin’s, the lawmaker said she hadn’t heard of the group or worked with them in drafting this particular piece of legislation. ADF said they were not involved in Missouri.

When Springfield voters repealed an LGBT anti-discrimination law in 2015, critics said the act’s protections gave leeway to sexual predators in public spaces – an argument interpreted by some as targeting transgender individuals.

Similar fears helped sink a legislative push for statewide protections for LGBT Missourians, and inspired state lawmakers to make an unsuccessful push in 2017 for laws mandating students at public schools only use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their biological sex.

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O’Laughlin said her primary reason for supporting the bill was to level the playing field for young women in sports. She proposed the legislation as a constitutional amendment, she said, because she thinks the people should be able to have their voice heard.

She described an instance where her friend’s daughter had to play against a boy in a soccer game. O’Laughlin said that he could kick the ball “all the way to the goal, and the girls could kick it about 10 feet. So, it just creates a disadvantage for them.”

Some lawmakers object not only to the content of O’Laughlin’s proposal, but also the prospect of a statewide vote.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Democrat, said proposing it as a constitutional amendment is “even worse” than a regular bill.

“I think as a general rule it’s nice to take things to a vote of the people so that their voices are heard,” Quade said. “But I believe when it comes to human rights, that’s something that we shouldn’t be doing in this situation.”

Razer said it “crosses a line.”

“I fear we’re literally playing politics with young people’s lives for something that is not an issue in the state of Missouri, something that could be handled some other way and could be handled by people who actually understand what it means to be transgender,” Razer said.

O’Laughlin said she is confident in the bill.

“I really think that if it manages to get through and on the ballot, I think it will pass overwhelmingly, because I think people are fair minded.”

The bill has been assigned to O’Laughlin’s Senate Committee on Education, but has yet to receive a public hearing.

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Ohio lawmakers move to ban transgender athletes from girls and women's sports .
Transgender females couldn't join their high school or college female soccer, field hockey or track teams if a bill introduced Tuesday by two Ohio Republicans becomes law. "Girls want the chance to play fair and win by the rules," Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, said. "That opportunity is being ripped away from them by biological males competing in the same sport." It's a question high school "Girls want the chance to play fair and win by the rules," Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, said. "That opportunity is being ripped away from them by biological males competing in the same sport.

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