States With Bans on Transgender Athlete Participation in College Sports
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- President Biden put forth a Title IX proposal that would limit the ability to bar transgender athletes from participating on teams matching their gender identity.
- Since 2020, many states have passed laws that conflict with this proposed rule.
- An expert told BestColleges that the Title IX rule would outweigh statewide bans because they are not limited in scope.
Over a dozen states unilaterally ban transgender college students from participating on sports teams matching their gender identity.
Athletic participation has become a center-stage issue for Republicans over the past three years, specifically in banning transgender women from participating on women’s sports teams. President Joe Biden’s recently proposed rule change to Title IX regulations — which sets the rules on sex-based discrimination at institutions — has brought the issue back into the national spotlight.
While this was the first major federal action on this, individual states have been actively barring transgender athletes from college sports since March 2020, according to an analysis from the Movement Advancement Project.
State laws currently restrict transgender college student sports participation in 15 states:
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Alabama was the most recent state to institute a ban. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill into law on May 30, 2023. This action expanded on a 2021 law that limited transgender athletes’ participation in K-12 sports.
Other states have similar laws that have been stalled in courts.
Idaho, which was the first state to implement a ban, had its law challenged in 2020. A temporary injunction prevents the state’s higher education system from enforcing the law, and the case is still active in the court system. According to Bloomberg Law, an appeals court ruled in January that the lawsuit challenging the law can move forward.
A similar situation exists in West Virginia. A temporary injunction is currently blocking the enforcement of a law banning transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. That case is still pending.
These are just preliminary actions while court cases unfold. Idaho and West Virginia may eventually join the list of 15 other states.
But the entire list may soon be moot.
W. Scott Lewis, co-founder of the Association of Title IX Administrators, told BestColleges that Biden’s Title IX rule proposal would overrule these state bans. The proposed rule, which can still be changed, would outlaw any unilateral bans on transgender athlete participation.
It would, however, make limited bans for select sports legal. Bans would need to be doled out only to preserve fairness in highly competitive environments or due to player safety concerns.
The Title IX rule recently exited the public comment portion of rulemaking. The Department of Education said it received over 150,000 comments on that proposed rule and plans to implement the new regulations in October.