Respect Equality

South Carolina governor signs transgender athlete ban into law

The law prevents transgender athletes through college from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity.
(AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins, File)

Story at a glance

  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) has signed into law a measure barring transgender athletes from elementary school through college from competing on sports teams aligning with their gender identity.

  • The law requires all public school sports teams be designated based on athletes’ sex assigned at birth. It also applies to private schools whose sports teams compete against public schools.

  • The law takes effect “upon approval from the governor.”

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) on Monday signed into law a measure barring transgender athletes through college from competing on school sports teams consistent with their gender identity, making South Carolina the eighth state this year to enact such legislation.

Under the state’s “Save Women’s Sports Act,” all sports teams that are sponsored by a public elementary school, high school or university in South Carolina must be designated “based on the biological sex at birth of team members.”

The law, which takes effect “upon approval from the governor,” also applies to private schools whose sports teams compete against public schools.

“We have to do everything we can to protect the young men and women in our state who choose to pursue athletic competition, and that’s why I proudly signed this bill into law yesterday,” McMaster tweeted Tuesday. “It’s common sense, boys should play boys sports and girls should play girls sports.”

South Carolina Rep. Ashley Trantham (R), who first introduced the measure in the state House of Representatives in January, has not commented publicly on its passage, but has previously said she believes such legislation is necessary to protect female athletes in the state and maintain a level playing field.


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In a statement posted to her Facebook page in March, Trantham voiced her support for a complaint filed by the conservative group Concerned Women for America against the University of Pennsylvania for allowing Lia Thomas, a transgender woman, to compete on the university’s women’s swim team. Thomas later that month became the first transgender woman to win a national championship in Division I athletics.

Trantham in her statement referred to Thomas as “a biological male who identifies as a woman and goes by the name Lia Thomas,” adding that the university in allowing Thomas to compete against cisgender women has committed an “egregious violation toward biological women.”

“I hope my colleagues in Columbia are paying close attention,” she wrote. An identical bill was introduced by Trantham last year but failed to advance beyond a House committee.

Under the new law, cisgender students in South Carolina may take legal action against their school if evidence of a violation is found that has “deprived” them of an athletic opportunity. 

The measure also prevents any elementary school, high school, university or athletic association from retaliating or taking “an adverse action” against a student who reports a violation, similar to a Tennessee law signed earlier this year that also entitles affected students to injunctive relief, damages and “any other relief available under law.”

Including South Carolina, 18 states since 2020 have passed legislation that prevents transgender athletes from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

Temporary injunctions are currently blocking the enforcement of transgender athlete bans in Idaho and West Virginia, and a lawsuit is currently pending against another ban in Florida prohibiting “biological males” from competing on women’s or girl’s sports teams.