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Indiana is one step closer to banning transgender girls from playing high school sports

HB 1041 passed in the House Education Committee
A person holdings signs and a Transgender Pride Flag
Posted at 9:48 PM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 13:29:58-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Dozens of people filled the Indiana House Chambers on Monday to see what the House Education Committee would do with House Bill 1041, which would make it illegal for transgender girls to participate on a K through 12 public school sports team designated for girls. An amendment voted on removed public colleges from this bill.

People testified for more than three hours, explaining their support or opposition to HB 1041. A common thread ran through each group.

Those who supported the bill all told stories revolving around their belief that it would protect fairness in sports for girls and young women. Parents of student athletes told personal stories about how hard their daughters work to be the best at their sport. They lamented their daughters would have to work even harder if they have to compete with transgender girls. This is why Representative Michelle Davis says she authored this bill.

"I want to make sure that all the opportunities are provided for our young females and we protect the fair competition for them so they have all those possibilities," Rep. Davis said.

Despite several people who testified how detrimental bills like HB 1041 are to transgender children, Rep. Davis doubled down on her wish to make sure sports are fair for girls.

"I think it's trying to keep the focus on female sports and fair competition with sports. That's what I feel the target of the bill is," Rep. Davis said. "Of course, mental health, I empathize with anyone who goes through mental health issues. I see it's real for all students and all Hoosiers today, but this bill is about maintaining fair competition for female sports."

During the committee hearing, Rep. Davis conceded to her colleague, Rep. Ed DeLaney, that she could not name any instances here in Indiana where a transgender girl had kept a cisgender girl from participating or winning in a particular sport.

RELATED | Lawmakers can’t cite local examples of trans girls in sports

People who opposed HB 1041 spoke passionately about the mental health toll transgender kids face when they're singled out by legislation. Many of them were parents who fear their kids will not be able to live a normal life if bills like HB 1041 become law.

Dr. Lauren Bell, a pediatrician, testified on behalf of the Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Bell said she was representing herself and more than 900 pediatricians and others who are part of the organization.

"The Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics opposes this legislation because it would harm children in Indiana and further marginalize transgender youth who are already at higher risk of depression and serious mental health issues," she said. "Research has shown that refusing to acknowledge an individual's gender identity leads to psychological and physical harm. Gender identity is a well-established concept in medicine which refers to a person's internal sense of being male or female."

IHSAA Commissioner Paul Neidig also testified. He had many questions about HB 1041 because his organization, which oversees K through 12 sports in Indiana, already has a policy on transgender athletes.

"The IHSAA developed the gender policy well over ten years ago. The policy is based upon what we believe is fair in its opportunity of balanced interests. At the forefront of our consideration was the IHSAA's commitment to Title IX and competitive fairness in girls sports," he said. "Our policy looks at the child, too. We collect information. We have a committee that would review that information. We have access to medical experts when reviewing that information and then at the end, a decision would be rendered."

RELATED | IHSAA's Gender Participation Component Waiver on pg. 41

Despite concern about the bill from Neidig, Dr. Bell and dozens of other people, the House Education Committee passed it along party lines, 8-4. The ACLU of Indiana has made it clear: they will take legal action if HB 1041 is signed into law. They argue it violates Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prevents discrimination based on a person's sex.

RELATED | U.S. Department of Education Confirms Title IX Protects Students from Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

HB 1041 must make it out of the House by January 31 for it to have a chance to become a law.