Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill Wednesday banning transgender girls and women from playing on female sports teams, making the state the third this year — and the 13th nationwide — to introduce such a measure.
When he signed the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” Stitt was surrounded by young girls, female athletes and other conservative lawmakers holding signs that read “Save Women’s Sports.” He said adopting the measure is “just common sense”.
“When it comes to sports and athletics, girls have to compete against girls. Boys have to compete with boys,” said Stitt, a Republican. “Let’s be very clear — that’s all this bill says.”
“We protect women’s sport. We are leveling the playing field for female athletes who work hard to train hard, who are committed to their team, who dream to be No. 1 in their sport, who deserve fair competition,” he continued. “The reality is that men are biologically different from women.”
The governor’s signing of the measure comes amid a nationwide culture war over LGBTQ, and particularly transgender issues.
Between Jan. 1 and March 15, state lawmakers proposed a record 238 bills that would restrict the rights of LGBTQ people — or more than three a day — about half of which specifically targeted transgender people, according to an NBC News analysis of data from the American Civil Liberties Union and the LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans.
This week — and after an outcry from LGBTQ lawyers, the White House and Hollywood — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law banning “classroom education…about sexual orientation or gender identity” in “kindergarten through grade 3 or in a way that is not age-appropriate or developmental.”
This year’s historic count quickly follows what some proponents had labeled the “worst year in recent history for LGBTQ legislative attacks,” when 191 bills were proposed last year.
Measures that would prevent trans students from participating in school sports teams that align with their gender identities are among the most successful anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in recent years, with 13 becoming law nationwide.
This year along with Oklahoma, Utah and South Dakota passed transportation laws. Utah enacted its version when state lawmakers overturned Governor Spencer Cox’s veto.
Not all attempts to issue sports bans have been successful.
Last year, Republican Governor of North Dakota, Doug Burgum, vetoed a sports law, calling “no evidence” of the danger trans athletes pose to female sports.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, a Republican, vetoed his state’s version of legislation this month, saying it “falls short” to provide consistent statewide policies for what he calls “fairness in K-12- called sports. However, Indiana lawmakers have enough votes to override his veto and pass the bill, though they haven’t yet.
Transport ban advocates, including Stitt, say they protect fairness in women’s sports, arguing that trans girls and women have inherent advantages over cisgender girls and women.
Critics say the measures are less about protecting women’s sports and more about “solving a problem that doesn’t exist”.
The Oklahoma move is “one of several bills we’ve seen attack” the state’s trans and non-binary communities, “while overlooking the real issues of gender equality in sports when it comes to funding.” , resources, pay equality and more,” Tamya Cox-Toure, Oklahoma’s ACLU executive director, said in a statement Wednesday. “Promoting unfounded fears about trans athletes does not solve those real problems.”
“Trans people belong everywhere, but with a swipe of a pen and a public display, Governor Stitt has made it clear to the vulnerable transgender youth of Oklahoma that they are not welcome or accepted in our state,” Cox-Touré continued.
The debate over trans athletes has also been catapulted into the country’s culture wars following the success of University of Pennsylvania transgender swimmer Lia Thomas.
Thomas became the first transathlete to win an NCAA championship this month, finishing first in the 500-yard freestyle race at the Division I Finals in Atlanta, after a successful season with the Penn women’s swim and dive team.
Without naming her, Stitt referred to Thomas in his decision to sign the bill.
“We’ve all seen the images of the Penn swimmer and we don’t want this to happen to this young lady right here next to me as she grows up and goes to high school,” he said, pointing to one of the young girls around him. “We are making that position today in the state of Oklahoma.”
The law went into effect immediately after Stitt’s signature.
However, it may face legal issues. In July, a federal court temporarily blocked the West Virginia version of the law from taking effect after the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the law.
To follow NBC off On Twitter† facebook † Instagram†