Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, noted for her anti-LGBTQ+ past, has introduced an anti-transgender bill as her tenure in the U.S. House winds down.
Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat who did not seek reelection in November, is sponsoring legislation that says, for purpose of participating in sex-segregated school sports, “sex shall be determined on the basis of biological sex as determined at birth by a physician.”
The measure, House Resolution 8932, was introduced Thursday by Gabbard and Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, the Washington Blade reports. It was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor, where it is likely to die, a congressional source told the Blade.
The bill speaks specifically to the interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding. When Barack Obama was president, the Department of Education said Title IX applied to discrimination based on gender identity, but conservatives have argued for a narrower interpretation.
“Title IX is being weakened by some states who are misinterpreting Title IX, creating uncertainty, undue hardship and lost opportunities for female athletes,” Gabbard said in a press release. “Our legislation protects Title IX’s original intent which was based on the general biological distinction between men and women athletes based on sex. It is critical that the legacy of Title IX continues to ensure women and girls in sports have the opportunity to compete and excel on a level playing field.”
There have been assertions that trans girls and women have an inherent advantage over cisgender women in sports, but studies have indicated this is not the case. But there are still efforts to keep trans females out of women’s sports. An Idaho law barring trans girls and women from female teams is being challenged in court, and it was blocked by a federal judge’s ruling in August. The state is appealing.
“Ultimately, the court must hear testimony from the experts at trial and weigh both their credibility and the extent of the scientific evidence,” U.S. District Judge David C. Nye wrote in his ruling. “However, the incredibly small percentage of transgender women athletes in general, coupled with the significant dispute regarding whether such athletes actually have physiological advantages over cisgender women when they have undergone hormone suppression in particular, suggest the act’s categorical exclusion of transgender women athletes has no relationship to ensuring equality and opportunities for female athletes in Idaho.”
There is also a lawsuit pending from families of several cisgender girls in Connecticut, seeking to bar trans girls from competing with cis girls in school sports. The Department of Justice has weighed in on the side of trans exclusion, as it did in the Idaho case, and the Department of Education has threatened to withhold federal funding from Connecticut schools.
Gabbard briefly ran for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Her antigay past was noted during the campaign, particularly her opposition to civil unions when she was a state representative in Hawaii. In 2004, when civil unions were under consideration, she decried “homosexual extremists.” Her father, Mike Gabbard, was a prominent anti-LGBTQ+ activist in Hawaii.
After those comments resurfaced, Gabbard said she was the product of a socially conservative upbringing but insisted her views had evolved. She has had a generally good record on LGBTQ+ issues since becoming a member of Congress in 2013. Her anti-trans bill is similar to one introduced in the U.S. Senate by Georgia Republican Kelly Loeffler, who is defending her seat in a January 5 runoff against LGBTQ+ ally Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Gabbard’s bill drew outrage from LGBTQ+ activists. “Rep. Gabbard’s play for attention is embarrassing. She should be ashamed of trying to burnish her right-wing credentials with attacks on transgender student athletes,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, in a press release. “Gabbard is on her way out of Congress, and this legislation has no chance to become law or even reach the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s just a hurtful attempt to get on TV without any regard to the damage such rhetoric does to transgender kids.”
Several Twitter users roasted Gabbard as well.