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Indiana House committee advances bill banning transgender girl athletes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH/AP) — Indiana lawmakers have advanced a Republican-backed bill that would ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity.

The bill approved 8-5 Monday by the House education committee would prohibit students who were born male but identify as female from participating in a sport or on an athletic team that is designated for women or girls.

Education committee chair Rep. Bob Behning, an Indianapolis Republican, said the bill, which now heads to the full House, is supported by a “majority” of House Republicans.

The legislation drew nearly three hours of testimony in the House education committee, with opponents maintaining that it unfairly discriminates against Hoosier youth.

At the beginning of the hearing, the committee voted to strip out language that would have applied the bill’s provisions to collegiate as well as K-12 sports. They then spent the next 3 1/2 hours listening to impassioned pleas from parents and activists.

Dr. Kristopher Hunt, national medical director of USA Powerlifting, presented data that showed, in lifting, at least, that transgender women had a roughly fivefold strength advantage over cisgender women who took steroids.

For parents like Debra Radke, the data indicates their daughters would be at an unfair advantage. Radke, who said she was on her college’s swim team and is the mother of a college athlete, said her swim team always trained differently from the boys because of physiological differences.

“Some of the other things not mentioned already is lung capacity. I was a swimmer and a synchronized swimmer and always the males could out-breathe me,” she said.

Under questioning from Rep. Ed DeLaney, an Indianapolis Democrat, the bill sponsor, Rep. Michelle Davis, a Whiteland Republican, said she was aware of a single incident in the state where a transgender girl outcompeted her peers, out of nearly 64,000 female athletes in K-12 schools.

Nathaniel Clawson, whose 9-year-old daughter is transgender, said that means the bill targets an entire community for a few isolated incidents. Clawson said his daughter wants to play high school sports as her two older siblings have.

“When you see kids play with their friends, and understanding that everyone on the team has a place and helps the team win, I think it just teaches kids so many life lessons,” he said. “I’m really sad to see that my daughter might miss out on that.”

Ten states have laws on the books banning transgender girls from competing on girls’ athletic teams. Of those, at least four, including Idaho and West Virginia, are facing litigation.

The ACLU of Indiana said if the bill becomes law, the organization will sue.