Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) introduced legislation in the House on Thursday that would bar schools from receiving federal funding if they allow transgender girls and women and non-binary people to compete on sports teams consistent with their gender identities.
The bill — co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma — was met with immediate outrage from transgender activists and allies who labeled the legislation “blatantly transphobic.”
The “Protect Women’s Sports Act” seeks to clarify that Title IX protections for female athletes are “based on biological sex,” Gabbard and Mullin said in a statement.
Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in educational programs that receive federal financial assistance. The new bill would bar schools from receiving such funds if they permit “a person whose biological sex at birth is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls.”
A similar bill was introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia) and other Republicans. Loeffler is one of two Republican senators facing competitive runoff elections in Georgia in January.
Explaining her support for the bill, Gabbard ― who’d previously claimed she supported LGBTQ rights ― said she wants to protect “Title IX’s original intent which was based on the general biological distinction between men and women athletes based on sex.”
“Title IX was a historic provision … to provide equal opportunity for women and girls in high school and college sports. It led to a generational shift that impacted countless women, creating life-changing opportunities for girls and women that never existed before,” she said.
“However,” she added, “Title IX is being weakened by some states who are misinterpreting Title IX, creating uncertainty, undue hardship and lost opportunities for female athletes. 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.”
“Tulsi Gabbard is now introducing a blatantly transphobic piece of legislation aimed at trans and non-binary young people,” civil rights activist Charlotte Clymer wrote on Twitter of the bill.
“Remember when Tulsi Gabbard tried to convince us she was an LGBTQ ally? We knew she was a liar, a fraud,” wrote Zeke Stokes, former chief programs officer of LGBTQ rights organization GLAAD.
Gabbard faced scrutiny last year after homophobic remarks she’d made in 2004 surfaced. At least twice that year, the Democrat had publicly called the LGBTQ community and same-sex marriage supporters “homosexual extremists.”
She later told HuffPost in a statement that she regretted “the positions I took in the past” and noted her more recent support for legislation “that ensures equal rights and protections on LGBTQ+ issues.” In 2017, for instance, she backed a bill targeting discrimination based on sexual orientation.