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High school athletic association opposes transgender athlete bill

Soccer team waiting for kick
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A new bill would only allow athletes to play on teams that match their sex assigned at birth.

A state Senate committee held a hearing Tuesday on a measure that would require transgender high school athletes to only play on teams that match their sex assigned at birth.

The meeting of the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee was abruptly adjourned as angry exchanges and people talking over one another reflected the passionate differences surrounding the question.

Critics say the bill would discriminate against transgender and non-binary athletes. Its Republican sponsor says it’s not fair to allow athletes who’ve transitioned from male to female to compete as girls.

“Ultimately, this above all is a matter of fairness, and ensuring there’s an equal playing field for every athlete,” said Senator Lana Theiss (R-Brighton), who also chairs the committee.

But Democratic Senator Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) called the bill “a solution in search of a problem” and said it is not fair to transgender athletes, and possibly others.

“I’m thinking of the girl kicker on the football team, the boy cheerleader, and I’m wondering if that unintended consequence was considered when somebody, hopefully from this state, crafted this bill,” she said.

Lawmakers in at least 30 other states have introduced similar legislation.

The bill is opposed by the Michigan High School Athletic Association, which did not offer testimony at the hearing.

But MHSAA Communications Director Goeff Kimmerly said the association’s position is the not necessary.

“Our policy is effective and compassionate,” he said. “Our schools are happy with it. And additionally, we feel this legislation takes away opportunities for all female athletes.”

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.