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Bill would ban transgender athletes from female sports

by The Associated Press | February 23, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas' Republican attorney general and lawmakers unveiled legislation Monday that would prohibit transgender athletes from playing on girls' and women's sports teams at schools.

Acknowledging she wasn't aware of any instances in Arkansas of transgender athletes playing on school sports teams, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge called the proposal a preemptive effort in response to an executive order President Joe Biden signed that prohibited discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere.

"We don't want common sense to be overshadowed by so-called political correctness, and this bill will ensure the integrity of girls and women in sports," Rutledge said at a news conference at the state Capitol.

Similar legislation has been introduced in 20 states so far this year. Idaho was the only state to pass a similar law last year, but it has been blocked in federal court as a lawsuit plays out. The NCAA has a policy allowing transgender athletes to compete.

Arkansas' proposal would apply to K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities. Any person or school that suffers "direct or indirect harm" or the attorney general could seek a court order against a school for violating the ban under the legislation.

The Human Rights Campaign said the legislation is trying to address a problem that doesn't exist in the state, noting that the NCAA's policy has existed for years.

"This type of legislation is dangerous, exclusionary, hateful, and not necessary," Cathryn Oakley, the group's state legislative director and senior counsel, said in a statement.

Rutledge is promoting the legislation as she's seeking the Republican nomination for governor next year against former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. The bill is being sponsored by Republican Sen. Missy Irvin and Rep. DeAnn Vaught.

The proposal is one of two targeting transgender athletes. Another proposal by Republican Sen. Alan Clark would ask voters next year to approve placing a similar restriction in Arkansas' constitution.

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