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Both pieces of legislation go further than athletic organizations’ existing standards for transgender participation. The NCAA allows transgender athletes on female teams after one year of testosterone-suppressing hormone treatment. The Arkansas Activities Association, which oversees kindergarten-through-12th-grade sports in the state, requires that students participate on teams aligning with the sex listed on their birth certificates, though the rules allow a changed birth certificate to be accepted.
House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough, D-Little Rock, said SB450 is unnecessary because the attorney general can already litigate any matter, adding that the measure “only serves to discriminate against a minority.”
“Athletics are a valuable experience where student-athletes gain physical, mental, team and leadership skills,” McCullough said. “There is room for everyone.”
McCullough, the only openly LGBTQ member of the Arkansas Legislature, said the measures put negative national attention on the state, referencing a recent statement from the NCAA. The organization said it would only hold events in locations that are inclusive of transgender athletes.
She also referenced a statement from Doug McMillon, president and CEO at Walmart, who said earlier this month that he was concerned with bills targeting the LGBTQ community.
Rep. Jack Ladyman, R-Jonesboro, said he was “tired of hearing people talk about how poor and bad we are” and being “threatened” by organizations and corporations that say the state will lose business and sports tournaments if it doesn’t “bow” to what they want.
“We need to decide what we want to do, not what these national organizations or these international companies want to do,” Ladyman said.
More than 20 states in 2021 have considered bills that would restrict transgender participation in sports, according to The Associated Press. Arkansas became the second state this year to sign one into law, after Mississippi. Tennessee’s governor signed that state’s law last month.
Idaho passed such a law in 2020, but that measure has been barred from taking effect by a court order.