Advance Notice: Briefs

Republican introduces anti-trans sports bill, following trend in other states

By: - March 10, 2021 3:52 pm

LGBTQ+ Pride flags | Susan J. Demas

Updated, 11:03 a.m., 3/11/21 with comments from Theis

State Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) on Wednesday followed in the footsteps of lawmakers in more than 20 states, introducing legislation that targets transgender students.

Senate Bill 218, which is co-sponsored by 12 Republicans, mandates that high schools ban transgender boys from boys’ sports teams and transgender girls from girls’ teams. Theis said that her bill protects women and girls in sports, an argument other conservatives have made.

Sens. Lana Theis and Aric Nesbitt talk to reporters, May 7, 2019 | Michael Gerstein

“My bill will ensure that, in school sports in Michigan, student athletes will compete against one another according to their biological sex — females against females, and males against males,” Theis said in a statement.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee, which Theis chairs.

The bill is similar to those introduced in several other states. The 19th news site reports that anti-LGBTQ groups part of the Promise to America’s Children coalition has a website that delivers “model legislation” to policymakers, “providing bill language designed to keep trans youth from accessing medical care and participating in athletics.”

When asked if if she consulted with the group, Theis said in a statement to the Advance: “I have not heard of the Promise to America’s Children coalition, and thus did not consult with anyone from the group in the drafting of SB 218.”

The Advance asked if there are school districts that are having issues and Theis responded: “Michigan law currently does not provide guidance on the issue addressed by Senate Bill 218. This is a timely matter, and given that it is a growing problem of national importance, it is better that Michigan be proactive because of the huge implications for our children.”

The bill was quickly condemned by progressives and LGBTQ rights activists. Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott called the bill “harmful.”

“It will directly impair the ability of trans youth to participate in sports, and only adds to the stigma that they face. Senate Republicans are unnecessarily targeting trans youth. This legislation is an overt, coordinated, multistate attack on the most vulnerable young people,” she said. “As a nation, we decided long ago that discrimination is wrong and that everyone should have the same opportunities to succeed in life — and that should include trans youth. Kids learn a lot of important life lessons in sports: leadership, confidence, self-respect, and what it means to be part of a team. When we tell transgender girls that they can’t play girls’ sports — or transgender boys that they can’t play boys’ sports — they miss out on this important childhood experience and all the lessons it teaches.

Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, a Democrat, called the bill “shameful” and “hateful bulls–t that will do nothing for the people of this State. Instead, it serves only to harm and stigmatize young people.”

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.