WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 08: Rebekah Bruesehoff, a transgender student athlete, speaks at a press conference on LGBTQI+ rights, at the U.S. Capitol on March 08, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
The North Carolina Senate on Tuesday approved a controversial bill to prohibit transgender athletes from participating in middle school, high school and collegiate athletics.
House Bill 574 was approved 31-17 largely along party lines and returned to the House where it could be taken up as soon as Wednesday. Sen. Val Applewhite, a Cumberland County Democrat, crossed the aisle to vote with the Republican majority.
HB 574 has been hotly debated this legislation session with Democrats and state progressives sternly pushing back against it and other Republican-backed legislation aimed at transgender youth.
EqualityNC Executive Director Kendra R. Johnson said the nonprofit that fights for LGBTQ rights and protections is “horrified and disgusted” by the Senate’s approval of HB 574.
“Transgender youth already experience unsafe and unwelcoming environments, and evidence shows that discriminatory school policies only harm them further,”Johnson said in a statement. “The further advancement of this bill is already harmful to our vulnerable youth, and if passed into law will enshrine discrimination. We urge the House to vote no.”
Sen. Kevin Corbin, a Republican from Macon County who co-sponsored the bill, called HB 574 “common sense” legislation.
“It’s not against anybody,” Corbin insisted. “It simply does this; it simply prevents biological males from playing girls sports — end of story.”
Amendments approved by the Senate last week excludes intramural sports from the legislation and makes it clear that females can play on male teams, Corbin noted.
A companion to HB 574 — Senate Bill 631 — was scrapped and replaced by a proposed committee substitute that would prohibit the use of state facilities and money to provide gender-affirming care for transgender minors. The House Health Committee gave the bill a favorable hearing earlier on Tuesday.
Rowan Bilodeau, a 15-year-old transgender high school student, told the Health Committee, that gaining access to gender-affirming care saved his life.
“I want others to have that same opportunity,” Bilodeau said. “ I’m tired of seeing my brothers and sisters die because they’re being denied their rights.”
Rep. Timothy Reeder, a Pitt County Republican, said the legislation is designed to protect children from potentially “life altering” treatments before they’re old enough to consent to them.
Reeder said that while it’s noble to provide help to relieve suffering,“we must not jump to unproven remedies for these children.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Wake County Democrat, said the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” as the HB 574 is called singles out transgender youth for all the wrong reasons.
“It’s unwarranted, unworkable, unfair and unkind to transgender high school and college students,” Chaudhuri said.
The legislation is unwarranted in North Carolina, Chaudhuri said, because out of 180,000 high school athletes, only two transgender athletes have applied to play sports.
He noted that Spencer Cox, Utah’s Republican governor, vetoed similar legislation banning trans girls in school sports after data showed that among 75 kids playing high school sports, only four were transgender and just one was involved in girls sports.
Sen. Lisa Grafstein, a Wake County Democrat and the only out LGBTQ state senator, said bills targeting the LGBTQ community are designed to “erase us” and keep its members shrouded in darkness.
“This bill in particular and ones like it, are a reflection of a dark but familiar political tactic,” Grafstein said. “Groups get demonized when it’s politically useful, treated as fundamentally inferior or defective or nonexistent. They get erased.”
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