Michigan bill would bar transgender high schoolers from teams that align with their gender

A GOP-backed bill introduced in Michigan’s state Senate would block transgender high schoolers across the state from playing on athletic teams that align with their gender. 

State Sen. Lana Theis (R), unveiled the legislation on Wednesday. It calls on school officials to ensure that, if a high school “designates” a team as for girls, the students who compete “for a position on that team or who is selected to compete on that team” must have been identified as female “at birth.”

The legislation also includes language mandating that students who want to play on a team designated for boys must also have been identified as male at birth.

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The bill does not include provisions on how a school or school district would be punished if it does not enforce the legislation, which sponsored by a dozen Republican Michigan state senators. 

“As a society, we fought for generations to ensure girls and women, through Title IX, have an equal opportunity to compete in athletics on a level playing field,” Theis said in a Wednesday statement. “Sadly, today, identity politics threatens all that was sacrificed and gained. Across our country, biological females are losing opportunities at titles, records, scholarships and, at times, participation itself."

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that bans discrimination based on sex in educational programs that receive federal funds. 

Bills targeting transgender students who want to play on sports teams of their gender identity have been introduced by Republicans across the country. Critics of the legislation argue that it will marginalize transgender children and young adults from programs that align with their gender.

Erin Knott, president of the LGBT advocacy group Equality Michigan, told the Detroit Free Press that sports teams have the potential to teach students “a lot of important life lessons,” including “leadership, confidence, self-respect, and what it means to be part of a team.”

“School officials shouldn’t treat a transgender female student as a girl between 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. and then treat her like she’s a boy when sports practice starts. It’s deeply hurtful to the student and disrupts the school’s policy of treating all kids fairly,” she continued.

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The bill legally prevents any student at a state institution from joining a team that does not match their sex identified at birth.