Georgia High School Association Bans Transgender Athletes

The state organization charged with overseeing Georgia high school sports voted on May 4 to ban transgender athletes by requiring that athletes be allowed to compete only based on the gender on their birth certificate and not based on their gender identity.

The ruling has angered and disappointed leading LGBTQ advocates, who say it was hastily issued, was discriminatory and would only hurt transgender students.

The Georgia High School Association’s executive committee has voted to change a rule so that athletes can only compete based on their assigned sex at birth, according to a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The report initially said the vote was 62-0, but it was later learned there, an abstention.

“We’re approaching this as a competitive balance issue,” said GHSA executive director Robin Hines. told the AJC the day before the vote. Hines submitted the proposal.

“We don’t want to discriminate against anyone, but that includes biological daughters. There are usually competitive imbalances between biological females and biological males,” Hines said.

Jeff Graham, CEO of Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy groupdenounced the GHSA vote and said “the secretive and hasty process by which this was done is despicable”.

“All students in Georgia should have equal access to school sports, and efforts to change policies that facilitate this should be done in a transparent and open manner,” Graham said in a written statement. “[The] the actions of the GHSA executive committee will really hurt trans kids in Georgia who just want to be themselves and fit in.

Chanel Haley, Georgia’s gender equality policy officer, called the vote “discriminatory and divisive.”

“Unfortunately, the GHSA has decided to ignore precedent by favoring some students and parents over others,” she said in a written statement. “Now, because our state policymakers have failed all students, we must look to our federal policymakers to step in to ensure the protection and inclusion of all student athletes.”

The GHSA defined gender for sports participation as what they were assigned at birth until 2016. The organization changed its policy that year to allow schools and school boards to define gender. The change followed a nationwide backlash against North Carolina’s controversial restroom bill that banned transgender people from using public restrooms because of their gender identity.

“The GHSA will honor a gender determination made by a member school. The GHSA will not determine gender identity or consider appeals of the member school’s decision,” it was amended in 2016.

The May 4 executive committee vote changes the policy to now define gender as follows: “A student’s sex is determined by the sex listed on their birth certificate.”

Governor Brian Kemp hailed the GHSA vote on social media. Kemp successfully pushed a bill through the legislature this year to ban transgender athletes from playing sports in high school.

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