BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A proposal to ban transgender athletes in Louisiana from competing on girls' sports teams in schools will be debated by the full Senate after sailing through the chamber's education committee Thursday without opposition.

Sen. Beth Mizell, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, said her bill would “protect girls in sports." She suggested transgender women would have an automatic, built-in advantage.

“Nobody wants to treat anyone with inequity, but there is not an equal situation physically,” Mizell said.

LGBTQ advocates and other opponents called such a ban discriminatory, said it could harm transgender children's mental health and would run afoul of federal anti-discrimination laws. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, opposes the bill and other measures targeting transgender youth.

“It perpetuates more unfairness whether it intends to or not,” said Clifton Mixon, a child and adolescent psychologist.

Senate Education Chairman Cleo Fields, a Baton Rouge Democrat, questioned the need for the bill, but didn’t vote in opposition. The only other Democrat on the committee, Sen. Katrina Jackson of Monroe, joined the Republicans in supporting the measure.

Jackson vigorously defended her position as protecting students against an “unfair advantage” that she said transgender females could have.

“I'm going to vote for the bill. I’m going to very transparent. But I don’t want to be called transphobic,” she said.

Conservative lawmakers across the country have pushed similar bills limiting transgender people's participation in sports, and Mizell said 20 states have adopted them so far.

But Mizell acknowledged she couldn't offer an example of a specific problem or situation in Louisiana.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association, which supports the legislation, already has taken a position that student athletes “shall compete in the gender of their birth certificate unless they have undergone sex reassignment." That prompted Fields to ask whether the bill was even needed to accomplish Mizell's goal.

“This is a bill in search of a problem,” said Melissa Flournoy, with Louisiana Progress, which opposed the bill.

The proposal would require that athletic events and teams sponsored by a school that receives state funding “shall be expressly designated, based upon biological sex,” and it would specifically spell out that athletic teams or sports events “designated for females, girls or women shall not be open to students who are not biologically female.”

Mixon said puberty blockers and other medical treatments can keep transgender women from developing the athletic advantages that supporter of the bill cited. He said athletes have different body types and different genetic backgrounds that can give them advantages.

“We’re overly focused on competitiveness and not humanity,” he said.

Rep. Kirk Talbot, a River Ridge Republican, cited an example in Connecticut where he said two transgender females broke multiple state records in track events. Allowing them to play on women's teams “will most definitely kill women’s sports,” Talbot said.

Advancement of Mizell's bill came a day after another lawmaker, Republican Sen. Mike Fesi of Houma, shelved his proposal to add new restrictions on transgender youth access to medical care and counseling. Fesi faced widespread opposition and claims that the measure was discriminatory.

Edwards and others worry that proposals to add transgender restrictions could bring economic damage to the state, chasing away events like the NCAA’s Final Four basketball tournament scheduled for New Orleans in 2022. The NCAA has declared its support for transgender student athletes and said it will choose locations for its championships where hosts commit to an environment “free of discrimination.”


The bill is filed as Senate Bill 156.


Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.

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