Alabama passes law restricting transgender athletes’ participation in college sports

Alabama passes law restricting transgender athletes’ participation in college sports

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Dive Brief:

  • A new law in Alabama prohibits public colleges from allowing transgender students to join sports teams matching their gender identities.
  • Signed Tuesday by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, the legislation also bars accreditors, athletic organizations and governmental entities from taking action against colleges that uphold the law or retaliate against students who report violations.
  • The law could end up conflicting with the U.S. Department of Education’s forthcoming Title IX rule focused on transgender athletes, setting the stage for a legal battle.

Dive Insight:

The Education Department had been expected to release the final versions of its Title IX regulatory proposals this month, but both have been delayed until October. Title IX bans sex-based discrimination in federally funded schools. 

Draft language from the sports-specific rule would prohibit broad bans against transgender athletes playing on teams matching their gender identities.

The department’s proposal would still allow colleges to limit transgender students’ participation in athletics under certain circumstances, such as to prevent sports injuries, much to the consternation of transgender lawmakers and advocates.

Many conservative lawmakers have increasingly made the fight against transgender rights, including on college campuses, a centerpiece of their legislative goals. Both chambers of Alabama’s legislature, as well as the governor’s mansion, have been Republican-controlled since 2011. 

In 2021, Alabama passed a law prohibiting transgender athletes at K-12 schools from participating in sports aligned with their gender identities. The latest legislation expands that ban to public colleges. 

Alabama’s new measure also allows students to sue colleges if they believe they lost an athletic opportunity or suffered harm because of a violation of the law.

In a tweet Tuesday, Ivey called transgender women “biological” males and said they would not be able to compete in women’s and girl’s sports. Though Ivy’s focus — and the focus of other conservatives nationwide — is often on who is permitted to play on women’s teams, Alabama’s new law also bans transgender men from joining men’s teams.

The Texas Legislature, another Republican stronghold, recently passed a bill similar to the one Ivey signed. Gov. Greg Abbott has said he would sign that ban into law.

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