LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) – Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a law Thursday that prohibits transgender women and girls from competing on school sports teams based on their gender identity, making the state second in approve such a restriction so far this year. .
The Republican governor approved the measure despite objections from medical and child welfare groups that would have a devastating impact on transgender youth. Hundreds of college athletes They have also urged the NCAA to refuse to hold championships in states that enact such bans.
“This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a male student when the sport is designed for female competition,” Hutchinson said in a statement issued by her office. “As I have said previously, I agree with the intent of this law. This will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events. “
Republicans in at least 20 state legislatures have been pushing for similar bans this year. The Governor of Mississippi signed a ban in law earlier this month. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem had initially said she would sign similar legislation sent to her, but has since pushed for it to be changed to exclude college sports. Arkansas law covers K-12 sports as well as college sports.
The head of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights group, called Hutchinson’s decision “an affront not just to transgender children that it will surely hurt, but to all Arkansans who will be affected by it. its consequences”.
“Hutchinson is ignoring the ugly history of states that have dared to pass anti-transgender laws in years past, and in doing so, exposing Arkansas to economic damage, costly taxpayer-funded legal battles and a tarnished reputation,” Alphonso said David, the group’s president, said in a statement.
Only one state, Idaho, has enacted a law restricting sports participation by transgender students, and that 2020 measure is blocked by a court ruling while a lawsuit is developing. Opponents have not said whether they plan legal action to block the Arkansas ban.
“This law is a shameful and discriminatory attempt by politicians to stigmatize and exclude transgender teens,” Arkansas American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Holly Dickson said in a statement.
Arkansas law, if not blocked by legal challenge, would take effect this summer. Under the new law, a student or school who suffers “direct or indirect harm” could take a school to court for violating the ban.
The measure is among several targeting transgender people advancing through the Republican-majority Legislature this year. Another bill on Hutchinson’s desk would allow doctors to refuse to treat someone for moral or religious reasons, a move opponents say would allow LGBT patients to be turned away.
A final vote is also expected next week on legislation that would ban gender confirmation surgery or treatment for minors.
The measures have gained support as a Hutchinson-backed hate crime bill has stalled., in the face of conservative resistance. The current version of the bill would impose additional penalties for committing a crime against someone due to various characteristics, including gender identity or sexual orientation.
Arkansas is one of only three states without a hate crimes law.
When asked earlier this week about the message that measures targeting transgender people send to the LGBT community, Hutchinson said he hoped to send a message of welcome by enacting a hate crime law.
“I want the message to be that we want to make sure that everyone is protected, that everyone is treated the same under the law,” Hutchinson told reporters Tuesday. “That’s very, very important, whether it’s transgender or some other characteristic.”
Hutchinson also signed the bill four years after opposing the legislation. that would have prohibited people from using toilets in government buildings that do not match their gender at birth. That measure, which never left the committee, had drawn opposition from tourist groups who said it would hurt the state’s economy.