For the third time, S.C. lawmakers will attempt to ban transgender athletes from women’s sports

The South Carolina Capitol building in Columbia, S.C. Two South Carolina lawmakers have pre-filed a bill on transgender athletes in women’s sports. Chris Boswell/Dreamstime/TNS

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A pair of South Carolina House Republicans want to try again to ban transgender girls and women from women’s sports after their efforts were shot down several times earlier this year.

State Reps. Ashley Trantham, of Greenville, and Melissa Oremus, of Aiken, pre-filed a bill released last week that would only allow children assigned female at birth to participate in women’s sports from the middle school to collegiate levels. Previous versions of the bill only addressed middle school and high school sports.

Trantham said she’s more confident her bill will make it through the House next year. But one Republican colleague says he’ll likely oppose it as it’s currently written.

“I think that a lot of pressure has been put on the folks in judiciary that would not allow it go to forward,” Trantham said, referring to the House Judiciary Committee, which blocked her bill twice last year. Trantham added she hopes this time her colleagues understand the bill is important to constituents.

Efforts to ban transgender girls from women’s sports have been part of a nationwide push from primarily more conservative lawmakers who say transgender women have a natural athletic advantage over their cisgendered counterparts. Nine states have enacted legislation, and governors in three more states have vetoed it.

This year, 23 more states considered measures to ban transgender athletes from women’s sports, though they did not pass.

In South Carolina, it’s rare for transgender women and girls to try to participate in high school women’s sports.

While the South Carolina High School League has an application process for schools to allow a transgender student to participate in women’s sports, only four students have gone through the process since it was instituted in 2016.

And two students, both transgender girls, have been granted waivers.

Trantham’s bill, dubbed the “Save Womens Sports Act,” isn’t the first time she has tried to get it through the House. Earlier this year, two separate, nearly identical bills were voted down by the House Judiciary Committee, with lawmakers calling the proposals “a solution in search of a problem.”

A separate bill was filed in the Senate, but a subcommittee did not vote to advance it, pushing a potential debate to next year.

Critics of the bill included LGBTQ+ advocates, a group of medical professionals, some teachers and the state’s education Superintendent Molly Spearman, who called it discriminatory and harmful to transgender youth and their mental health.

In South Carolina, advocates said the bills made the LGBTQ+ community stronger, pushing a group to form a coalition and hire a lobbyist.

Trantham and other proponents of the bill, however, could have an easier go next year.

For next year, the bill was assigned to the Republican-led House Education and Public Works Committee, not the House Judiciary Committee, where it failed multiple times.

Republican state Rep. Micah Caskey, one of the bill’s main opponents in the House Judiciary Committee, said he might take a stand should the bill make it to the full House floor.

“We now have even more court cases that describe the problems with this copy and paste bill that they’ve taken from national groups,” said Caskey, of Lexington County. “If they were serious about addressing this issue, they would bring ideas to the table about how to improve our current system that has (already) prevented unfair competition.”

States like Tennessee and Florida, where transgender athlete laws have passed, have drawn lawsuits, and in West Virginia a federal judge blocked the state’s transgender athlete law. Caskey said the bill also doesn’t address people who are neither biologically male nor female. Intersex individuals have reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the traditional expectations of male or female.

“We have to have laws that work all the time, not most of the time,” Caskey said.

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