By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service
Legislation blocking boys from playing in girls’ sports in Georgia and giving athletes cause to sue in court over violating that ban is up for debate in the General Assembly, sparking outrage from transgender rights advocates.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phillip Singleton, R-Sharpsburg, would prevent “biological males” from playing in school sports with “biological females,” halting children of different sexes or gender identities from playing in the same leagues.
It would also allow students who are deprived of athletic opportunities or face “direct or indirect harm” due to teams violating the proposed boy-girl split in Georgia sports to seek damages in civil court.
“Allowing biological males to compete in girls’ sports spells the end of girls’ sports,” Singleton said at a news conference Thursday at the state Capitol. “If we ignore biological reality and we ignore the science, our daughters will get hurt.”
Critics argue the bill discriminates against transgender athletes, marking the latest move by some conservative state lawmakers and religious groups to trample on LGBTQ rights. Transgender advocates condemned a nearly identical bill Singleton sponsored last year that sought the same gender divisions in Georgia sports but stalled.
Advocacy groups Georgia Equality and the nonprofit Athlete Ally also argued the bill would run afoul of transgender athlete inclusion rules for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that could jeopardize Georgia’s changes for hosting future college sports events – as well as the state’s bid to land the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.
"This is a shameful attack on Georgia’s transgender youth and young adults,” said Georgia Quality spokeswoman Shannon Clawson. “The proposed legislation does nothing to protect or support girls’ sports, rather it serves only to spread hateful stereotypes and endangers children and their ability to fully participate in important extracurricular activities.”
Singleton dismissed accusations his bill targets transgender student athletes, tying that criticism to “identity politics.” He framed the issue as a question of competitive advantage, noting two Connecticut transgender runners sparked controversy in 2018 by winning top prizes in girls’ track.
The Georgia High School Association, which sets rules for the state’s school sports teams, already does not permit boys to play on girls’ teams. It does let girls to play on boys’ sports teams “when there is no girls’ team offered in that sport by the school,” according to the association’s bylaws.
Gov. Brian Kemp appeared briefly in the Capitol Thursday to take photos with Singleton and about three dozen young Georgia women currently participating in girls’ sports. Kemp declined to comment on whether he supports Singleton’s bill, citing his office’s policy not to endorse pending legislation.
The bill has several Republican co-sponsors including Rep. Jodi Lott, R-Evans, who is one of Kemp’s floor leaders in the Georgia House of Representatives, and state Rep. Todd Jones, R-South Forsyth, who chairs the House Appropriations Education subcommittee. Georgia Senate Education and Youth Chairman Chuck Payne, R-Dalton, also appeared at the news conference supporting the bill.