Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Alaska lawmakers pass bill segregating sports teams by ‘sex at birth’

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Alaskan lawmakers exchanged emotional and often combative statements for more than 17 hours over the weekend regarding an anti-trans bill that would limit student participation in sports teams from kindergarten through college. The bill was ultimately passed by the Alaska House of Representatives late into the evening on Sunday.

Members of the Democratic minority introduced several amendments to the bill last week, which had 88 introduced, and made various motions to prevent its advancement as members of the House pulled weekend shifts. The bill passed the House with a 22 to 18 majority.

The new law would require students to play on teams that correspond to their sex at birth. A similar ban already exists for Alaska’s high schools, which was implemented after Governor Dunleavy-appointed board members voted in June 2023.

“If you would like to set this precedent of just tabling minority amendments because you do not like them, you will reap the seeds that you sow for years to come, Madam Speaker,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Calvin Schrage. “I’m going to vote no because the underlying bill is such a steaming pile of [expletive],” said Schrage before House Chair Cathy Tilton interrupted his rebuke telling Schrage to sit down.

Several Democrats expressed concern about how the bill would be a policy and financial burden on schools to determine students’ sex at birth. They also said it would inevitably require the state to breach its own privacy laws. In addition, they argued that the legislation would open schools and the state to lawsuits regarding equal protection and Title IX, a federal constitutional law that applies to state-funded educational institutions.

Republican Rep. Jamie Allard, the bill’s sponsor, has defended the bill saying that the bill’s interpretation of biological sex at birth is based on science and doesn’t discriminate. She offered an amendment to the bill’s language last week to apply to children’s hormone profiles and “non-ambiguous sex organs” in an apparent accommodation to children who were born intersex. Many who support the bill argue that it evens the playing field for female student-athletes.

“I’ve talked to other lawyers who reviewed this, and -on its face- this legislation just flat-out violates the equal protection clause of Alaska’s Constitution,” said Democratic Rep. Andy Josephson.

“There could be lawsuits and litigation and inspections of birth certificates, and this is a six-year-old, now—that—is government overreach,” said Rep. Josephson before the bill was put to a vote on May 12.

In closing remarks before legislators voted on the bill on Sunday, Rep. Allard, said that the Democratic minority was pushing a false narrative.

“They are saying this bill provides for a general inspection of genitalia. Wow, Madam Speaker. That’s gross, that is absolutely insane,” said Rep. Allard as she alluded that legislators in the opposing Democratic minority weren’t truthful.

“The narrative that is being put out to all Alaskans across this great state is trying to do a scare tactic. Nowhere in this two-and-a-half-page bill does it say anything about genitalia exams. That is just not true,” added Allard.

Allard did not further clarify how schools would deal with the new state requirement to segregate students based on “non-ambiguous sex organs.” Many from the opposition argued that all states don’t have conforming laws on how birth certificates can be changed, updated, or replaced after birth and that schools would have difficulty aligning policy actions.

Rep. Jennie Armstrong pointed out that cisgender girls, or girls that are not transgender, could be subject to unnecessary scrutiny over their biological sex in sports disputes, and in a May 11 amendment to limit the legislation to students in the eighth grade and above, she that it would be unfair to young children to make them undergo inquiries from a panel of adults trying to identify if they are transgender.

“I’m a fan of sex ed Madam Speaker, but I think it needs to be age-appropriate, and I think that we’re taking some really inappropriate and really adult conversations and trying to apply them to kindergartners,” said Armstrong who identifies as pansexual and authored many of the opposing amendments over the course of the last few months.

Armstrong acknowledged that the bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate, but emphasized the importance of sending a message to Alaskans about which side of history they want to be on. “The vote is futile debate, and the remarks made on this floor today are not about whether or not we want to see this bill become law. But about the legacy that we each choose to leave behind on this issue,” she added before a passionate disclosure about her own experiences with anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda.

“I want to teach my sons to not only excel in their own athletic achievement in their sport but to respect the dignity of women in theirs. This comes down to the dignity of each individual, and I think we’ve missed that in this conversation, said Republican Rep. Sarah Vance, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Rep. Alyse Galvin (N/A) opposed the bill, saying, “It breaks my heart. We need to do better at growing more awareness and more understanding that these are people. We need to appreciate that they’re not just victims of hate or the subject of restrictive legislation. They’re people just like you and I who have a very unique frame of reference for living and contributing to our communities.”

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