Mississippi moved one step closer to banning transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports after the state House approved a bill on Wednesday that could make the state the first in the country to add anti-transgender legislation to its books this year.
Senate Bill 2536, which prohibits transgender athletes from competing on women’s sports teams in the state’s high schools and universities, passed the Mississippi House by a vote of 81-28. The state’s Senate approved the measure last month by a vote of 34-9.
The legislation now heads to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves for approval. The governor, who has previously made comments highly critical of transgender athletes, said in a tweet Thursday that he would sign it.
“Adults? That’s on them,” Reeves tweeted. “But the push for kids to adopt transgenderism is just wrong.”
Republicans in state legislatures across the country have introduced a litany of anti-transgender bills since the start of the year, but SB 2536 is the first one to make it to a governor’s desk, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights group. The issue has become a lightening rod for debate among conservatives, who have seized on it much like they did several years ago with the debate around transgender students and bathrooms.
While proponents say that allowing an athlete born male to compete in women’s sports gives them an unfair advantage, those against proposals like SB 2536 say they are discriminatory and harmful.
“Today, in sending SB 2536 to Governor Reeves, Mississippi became the first state to take the plunge by passing legislation specifically attacking transgender children,” Alphonso David, HRC’s president, said in a statement following the bill’s passage.
“Mississippi is so determined to be on the wrong side of history that it is defying the evidence in favor of discrimination,” he added. “There is simply no justification for banning transgender girls and women from participating in athletics other than discrimination.”
The sponsor of the bill, Republican state Sen. Angela Hill, told her colleagues last month that she’d “had numerous coaches across the state call me and believe that they feel that there is a need for a policy.”
After President Joe Biden issued an executive order in January extending protections against discrimination to gender identity and sexual orientation, Reeves wrote in a Facebook post in early February that the President’s order will “force young girls like (my daughters) to compete with biological males for access to athletics.”
“It will limit opportunity for so many competitors like my daughters. It is bad policy and it is wrong for America,” Reeves wrote, adding: “My heart breaks for the young women across America who will lose in this radical social experiment.”
Reeves wrote in his tweet Thursday promising to sign the state’s bill that “it’s crazy we have to address it, but the Biden E.O. forced the issue.”