Arkansas Joins Idaho and Mississippi in Preserving Women’s Sports for Women

Male to female trans athlete June Eastwood competes
Derek Johnson/University of Montana

Arkansas became the third state in the nation Thursday to protect girls and women in sports from competing against males claiming to identify as females.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a bill (SB 354) into law banning biological males from competing against females, regardless of gender identity.

In March 2020, Idaho became the first state to protect women’s sports when Gov. Brad Little (R) signed HB 500 into law, banning males from competing against females in K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities.

Two weeks ago, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed SB 2536 into law to allow only women and girls to compete in female sports.

“I have studied the law and heard from hundreds of constituents on this issue,” Hutchinson said in a statement, adding:

I signed the law as a fan of women’s sports from basketball to soccer and including many others in which women compete successfully. This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition. As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law. This will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.

LGBTQ civil rights organization the Human Rights Campaign called the new law “cruel and harmful”:

According to the Associated Press, Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas, said the new law is “a discriminatory and shameful attempt by politicians to stigmatize and exclude transgender teens.”

However, Alliance Defending Freedom General Counsel Kristen Waggoner  said “women and girls deserve to compete on a level playing field.”

Waggoner observed Title IX was created, in part, to preserve women’s and girls’ sports, but “corporate interests and activists” have been lobbying state lawmakers to adhere to a ‘woke’ agenda at the expense of women and girls.” She said about the Arkansas law:

The law also provides female athletes with legal recourse if their rights are violated. That’s vital because allowing males to compete in girls’ sports destroys fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities—the very things that Title IX was designed to protect in federal law. When we ignore science and biological reality, female athletes lose medals, podium spots, public recognition, and opportunities to compete.

The Arkansas bill’s signing comes one week after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) created controversy by returning a bill designed to protect women’s sports back to the legislature for changes that included the exclusion of collegiate level women’s sports from the measure’s protections.

Though Noem earlier said she was “excited” to sign the bill into law, the Federalist reported South Dakota Chamber of Commerce President David Owen confirmed business groups had been lobbying the governor, warning of boycotts should it become law.

Many conservatives and feminists who initially supported Noem’s anticipated signing of the South Dakota bill, rejected the governor’s explanation of her change in direction – that “this bill would only allow the NCAA to bully South Dakota” – and criticized her decision to scrap much of the legislation.

“Kristi Noem had an opportunity to show real leadership on behalf of girl athletes, both in her state and nationwide,” said Terry Schilling, president of American Principles Project, a D.C.-based think tank devoted to America’s founding principles. “All she had to do was put her signature on a bill which convincingly passed the state legislature and which polling has shown is an incredibly popular issue in South Dakota.”

Feminist organization Women’s Liberation Front created an interactive map, available for viewing here, depicting states that have filed legislation to protect women’s and girls’ sports.

On Tuesday, North Carolina became the 30th state to file a Save Women’s Sports Act, which seeks to ensure all female athletes can compete on a fair playing field.

“In North Carolina, girls deserve to again compete on a level playing field,” state Rep. Mark Brody (R), primary sponsor of HB358, said, according to North Carolina Values Coalition. He added:

Instances of males competing in women’s sports exemplify the immediate need to act before fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities are destroyed. The Save Women’s Sports Act is the solution which ensures that all female athletes will be assured a level playing field to compete and win.

North Carolina Values also noted Beth Stelzer, the founder of Save Women’s Sports, a coalition that seeks to preserve biology-based eligibility standards for participation in women’s and girls’ sports, said the science of biology surpasses gender identity.

“Regardless of how an athlete identifies, a recent Duke University study demonstrates male athletes perform 10% to 20% better than comparably fit and trained female athletes,” Stelzer said. “Science tells us that an influx of hormones does not reverse the biological male’s larger hearts and lungs, denser bones, and stronger muscles. I have witnessed it firsthand in my amateur powerlifting competitions.”

President Joe Biden and the Democrats are urging swift passage of the Equality Act, a bill that would end the federal recognition of male and female sex and cater, instead, to proponents of gender ideology. If the bill becomes law, men who claim to identify as female would have a civil right to compete against women in athletics.

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