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GOP budget bill seeks to ban trans players from school sports

A budget bill backed by Michigan Republicans would penalize schools whose athletes do not compete under their sex assigned at birth.
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GOP state lawmakers are turning to budget sanctions in an effort to force transgender students to compete under their sex assigned at birth or stay out of official school sports.

A bill to do that was adopted this week by the House Appropriations Committee and sent to the House floor.

Republicans say political correctness has upended fair play in boys and girls sports.

“And, really, what we just want is to make sure that we have fairness in athletics,” said House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert. “The fact of the matter is boys have physical advantages over women especially when it comes to being bigger and faster and stronger.”

He told Michigan Public Radio that also matters because college scholarships can be at stake.

“You know, this is something nobody would have even talked about 10 years ago,” he said. “So this is something that we just want to get ahead of.”

Civil liberties groups say the measure is punitive against teens who just want to play school sports. Schools organizations say it’s not a problem.

“I don’t believe it belongs in a budget bill. I also don’t think that this has been an overwhelming problem in Michigan,” said Jennifer Smith with the Michigan Association of School Boards.

“The Michigan High School Athletic Association has a process to review transgender athletes and their eligibility in their sport, which is working fine, and that’s where this belongs.”

A different, stand-alone bill to require student-athletes to compete as their birth-assigned sex was introduced in the Senate but has not been put up for a vote. Governor Gretchen Whitmer is a supporter of transgender rights and would almost certainly veto it if it reaches her desk.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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