States With Bans on Transgender Athlete Participation in College Sports

President Biden’s Title IX rule proposal would supersede state laws banning trans participation in college sports.
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Updated on May 8, 2024
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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, over a dozen states have passed laws that conflict with this proposed rule.
  • Ohio was the latest state to institute such a ban.
  • 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 four 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 18 states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

Ohio was the latest state to institute a ban.

The state passed the Saving Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act in December 2023, but Republican Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed the proposal shortly after. The state House and Senate overrode his veto in January 2024.

Wisconsin’s state legislature passed a similar measure in March 2024, and Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, vetoed the bill in April.

North Carolina was the last state before Ohio to institute a ban. The state’s legislature passed a ban in mid-2023, but Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill on July 5, 2023. The state House and Senate overrode the veto 74-45 and 27-18, respectively, on Aug. 16.

Texas also instituted a ban over the summer. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Save Women's Sports Act into law on June 15, 2023. The law prohibits people assigned male at birth from participating in women’s sports leagues at the collegiate level, even if they are transgender women.

The act also creates a way for people to sue universities that violate the bill.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed two similar bills into law just one week earlier on June 7, 2023. The new Missouri law bans any college athlete from participating on a sports team that doesn’t match the sex on their birth certificate, but it doesn't go into effect until Aug. 28.

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 previously blocked the enforcement of a law banning transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals permanently blocked the law in April 2024.

The state may still, however, appeal the decision.

Arizona was the latest state to have its law halted in the courts. U.S. District Judge Jennifer Zipps issued a preliminary injunction on July 20, 2023, to block enforcement of the state’s Save Women’s Sports Act.

These are just preliminary actions while court cases unfold. Idaho, Arizona, and West Virginia may eventually join the list of 18 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.