Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) on Thursday signed the year’s first ban on transgender athletes participating in women’s sports in public schools, a move dozens of other states are considering.
Reeves and other Republicans have touted the law as necessary to level the playing field for female athletes, while critics have hammered the proposals as transphobic. Mississippi’s ban is set to go into effect on July 1.
“This important piece of legislation will ensure that young girls in Mississippi have a fair, level playing field in public school sports,” Reeves said at the bill’s signing Thursday.
“It sends a clear message to my daughters and all of Mississippi’s daughters that their rights are worth fighting for,” he added.
The legislation, dubbed the Mississippi Fairness Act states that “Athletic teams or sports designated for ‘females,’ ‘women’ or ‘girls’ shall not be open to students of the male sex” in public K-12 and colleges and universities in Mississippi.
When asked after he signed the bill if he could name any instance of a transgender athlete disrupting a public school sport, Reeves did not cite any examples, but he did hammer an executive order President BidenJoe BidenMadame Tussauds unveils new Biden and Harris figures US raises concerns about Russian troop movements to Belarus Putin tests a model for invading Ukraine, outwitting Biden's diplomats MORE signed in January banning discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Now, I never would have envisioned on Inauguration Day 2020 that we would be here this morning. In fact, I never envisioned on Inauguration Day 2021 that we would be here this morning. But for the fact that President Biden, as one of his first initiatives, sat down and signed an executive order which in my view encourages transgenderism amongst our young people,” he said earlier in the event.
LGBTQ rights groups came out swinging against the new law Thursday.
“Governor Reeves’ eagerness to become the face of the latest anti-transgender push is appalling, as he chooses fear and division over facts and science. This law is a solution in search of a problem, and legislators in Mississippi have not provided any examples of Mississippi transgender athletes gaming the system for a competitive advantage because none exist,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “Bullying transgender kids is no way to govern the state out of the crises they face.
“Like previous iterations of the same anti-equality fight, this law is bound to face scrutiny, legal challenges, and ultimately hurt the state’s reputation. Transgender kids deserve better and so does Mississippi.”
Reeves said he wouldn’t be surprised if Mississippi was sued over the legislation and that he was prepared to fight back against any legal challenges.
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we are sued,” he said. “What I do know is that we will defend vigorously our rights to make these state laws.”
Reeves’s signing comes as states across the country mull similar bills, as the debate over transgender athletes in public school sports emerges as a new front of the nation’s culture wars.
At least 35 bills have been introduced to ban transgender students from playing sports in leagues that conform to their gender identity, and another 25 bills would prohibit access to gender-affirming medical care. Idaho first passed a bill banning students from participating in sports under their gender identity in 2020, but the new national effort marks the beefiest campaign yet on the issue.