By Sydney Bauer
It’s one of the most restrictive bills barring transgender students from sports in U.S. history. On Tuesday, the Arizona House of Representatives passed House Bill 2706, a bill that goes beyond simply barring trans athletes in public schools from sports that align with their gender.
The measure requires a “signed physician's statement” verifying the student’s genetic makeup, testosterone levels, and “internal and external reproductive anatomy."
Legislators voted 31-29, along party lines, to advance the bill to the Arizona Senate, which could force athletes in public schools to compete in sporting events that matched their sex on their birth certificate—and require athletes to go invasive medical screenings if their gender is disputed.
HB 2706 is just one in a long line of pieces of anti-transgender legislation introduced this session that aim to limit the participation of transgender athletes in high school sports.
The bill not only covers high school sports, but athletes at any public or private school in Arizona governed by an interscholastic association. It goes a step further to include junior, community, and four-year colleges under jurisdiction from the Arizona Board of Regents.
“It is really sort of alarming to see that this kind of legislation is getting support from members of our Capitol,” Marcela Taracena, communications director at the ACLU of Arizona, tells NewNowNext. “This isn't something that Arizona needs, and this isn't something that Arizona has asked for. It is ‘fixing’ something that doesn't exist in our state. So we're hoping that lawmakers are listening.”
Organizations across the state have been pouring resources into protesting HB 2706 at the capitol and testifying against it. Taracena says the goal is to schedule as many meetings with lawmakers to stress how the civil rights of all Arizonans would be affected should it become law.
Taracena says in her three years at the ACLU, she cannot remember a bill that attacks the rights of transgender Arizonans quite like HB 2706.
In the event that it is passed, the ACLU has already begun to lobby Gov. Doug Ducey to prevent the bill from becoming law. Before the bill would make it to the governor's desk, it would need to be passed by the Arizona Senate.
The issue of transgender high school students participating in sports has exploded in the public consciousness after three girls filed a federal lawsuit in Connecticut to challenge the state's policy for allowing trans athletes to compete as the gender they identify as, after meeting certain criteria. The lawsuit was born out of the success of transgender Connecticut track and field stars Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood. Both Miller and Yearwood have won state championships in athletics.
Most states have interscholastic associations, which set rules for participating in high school sports. According to Transathlete, 18 states allow for trans athletes to participate in sports as their lived gender. These bills represent an attempt by state lawmakers to override interscholastic associations.
The possibility of subjecting athletes to medical examinations makes “this bill incredibly invasive and incredibly discriminatory,” Taracena says, and organizers “need to make it very clear to our lawmakers that this sort of legislation is not welcome."
Chris Mosier—an activist and the first transgender athlete to compete in a U.S. Olympic trials—agrees and believes that this kind of legislation, even if it ultimately does not pass, sends a message to trans youth across that country that they are not welcome on sports teams at school.
“HB 2706 is one of the most dangerous of the bills introduced so far because it would put all young women and girls at risk of invasive physical examinations of their reproductive anatomy if their gender was ever questioned,” Mosier tells NewNowNext. “This bill would legalize discrimination and put young girls at risk—it would be a step back for women's and girl's sport. I want to believe that lawmakers will realize they have no business in a young person's pants.”