FRANKFORT — A Republican legislator prefiled a bill for next year’s session of the Kentucky General Assembly that would prohibit transgender women from playing women’s sports in public K-12 schools and colleges.
In a press release, Rep. Ryan Dotson, R-Winchester, called his legislation the “Save Women’s Sports” bill, saying it is intended “to protect the integrity of women’s sports.”
“Research shows that transgender women have a muscle-mass advantage over biological women, even if they take a testosterone suppressant,” Dotson stated. “Allowing transgender women to participate in women’s sports gives transgender women an unfair advantage.”
While the text of the bill had not yet posted on the Legislative Research Commission website as of Thursday afternoon, similar legislation has been filed by Republican legislators in the past two sessions and largely ignored, receiving no committee hearings or votes.
However, several states, including neighboring Tennessee and West Virginia, have now signed such bills into law.
Chris Hartman, executive director of the Louisville-based Fairness Campaign, told The Courier Journal bills such as this seeking to exclude LGBTQ students from full participation in school life “are incredibly harmful to some of our most vulnerable LGBTQ youth, who already experience disproportionately high rates of depression and suicide.
“Rep. Dotson and others should take the time to talk with LGBTQ constituents to understand their lives before they introduce legislation to further marginalize our community,” Hartman said, adding the bill’s filing is “especially offensive in the middle of Pride Month, but I imagine that’s intentional.”
Rep. Ryan Dotson, R-Winchester (Photo: LRC Public Information)
In his press release, Dotson said sports provide opportunities for women to go to college and receive scholarships and financial aid, adding “we need to be realistic about the weight of these life-changing opportunities and ensure that fairness prevails.”
Dotson is a Pentecostal pastor serving in his first term.
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has a policy that recognizes the ability of transgender student-athletes to compete in sports “free from unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation.”
But some still view the KHSAA policy as restrictive, as it requires transgender athletes to undergo sex reassignment surgery either before or after puberty in order to compete in sports based on their gender identity.
Hartman stated last year that “few, if any” transgender students can meet the current KHSAA guidelines, making such legislation unnecessary. He added the bills’ proponents could not provide a single instance when this became an issue.
Other legislation filed but not passed in recent years targeting transgender students include bills to prohibit transgender students from using restrooms that align with their identities and create criminal penalties for doctors providing transgender youth with identity-related medical treatments.
Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, said it’s been “heartbreaking” to see the rise of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country and fears this type of bill “could have a tragic impact” on transgender youth already at high risk for depression and suicide.
“As state leaders, we ought to be celebrating the diversity of Kentucky students, and protecting them from harassment and discrimination rather than bringing forward gratuitous bills that can have a harmful impact,” Willner said.
This story may be updated.
Reporter Billy Kobin contributed to this story.
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