By Dakota Busch
The House of Representatives voted on Thursday, Feb. 25 to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, even though this bill protects LGBTQ+ individuals, it is causing controversy for its effect it can have on women’s sports.
The newly protected rights would allow transgender individuals to participate with the gender they identify with. The Webster Dictionary defines a transgender person as “someone whose gender identity differs from the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.” The most significant controversy in this is the idea that there is potential for males to participate in female sports. Some believe this is a step backward after the progress Title IX has given women in sports.
“If we allow males to compete in female sports, there will be men’s sports, there will be co-ed sports, but there will no longer be women’s sports,” said Beth Stelzer, founder of the Save Women’s Sports organization.
This organization was created to preserve women’s rights in athletics in support of Title IX. Passed in 1972, Title IX, grants women equal opportunities to males in education and athletics. According to Harvard University, before Title IX only one percent of college athletic budgets went to women’s sports programs, and at the high school level, males outnumbered females 12.5:1. Since the passing of the law in a 2016 Harvard University Study, numbers showed female high school participation has grown by 1057 percent and by 614 percent at the college level.
Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, criticizes the Equality Act for going too far in limiting people’s ability to defend themselves against discrimination claims.
“It protects the rights of one side but attempts to destroy the rights of the other side,”said Laycock in a NPR interview. “We ought to protect the liberty of both sides to live their own lives by their own identities and their own values.”
There are many positives to the new bill that do not affect women’s sports. Some of these include the ability of transgender individuals to openly serve their country, LGBTQ+ people having access to critical health care, policies preventing federally funded homeless shelters from turning away transgender people, and federally funded adoption agencies from rejecting same-sex couples.
“Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, and this bill represents a critical step toward ensuring that America lives up to our foundational values of equality and freedom for all,” said Joe Biden, in a public statement to the press.
However, the Equality Act’s impact on athletics remains the most prominent topic in conversation. Not only high school and collegiate athletes have spoken out, but also professional athletes.
“We support transgender women and girls and their right to equality, and we recognize their personal struggle. We don’t worry that boys and men will feign transgender identity to gain an advantage,” said Martina Navratilova,18-time grand slam champion, to the New York Post. “But we do hope that lawmakers won’t make the unnecessary and ironic mistake of sacrificing the enormously valuable social good that is female sports in their effort to secure the rights of transgender women and girls.”
The Equality Act will now have to pass through the Senate with more than 60 votes to avoid a filibuster in order to be enacted.