What Biden Administration’s Newest Title IX Proposal Means for Ohio’s Transgender Student Athletes

In Ohio, Republicans have pushed some version of a transgender sports ban every year since 2020.

click to enlarge A new Title IX proposal by the Biden Administration would outlaw blanket sports bans on transgender student athletes. - Photo: Pexels, Gonzalo Acuña
Photo: Pexels, Gonzalo Acuña
A new Title IX proposal by the Biden Administration would outlaw blanket sports bans on transgender student athletes.

This story was originally published by the Buckeye Flame and republished here with permission.

On April 6, the Biden Administration released a new Title IX proposal that would outlaw blanket sports bans on transgender student athletes at the federal level.

Currently, 21 states have passed legislation to categorically ban transgender students from competing in sports consistent with their genders — which would violate Title IX protections under the new rule.

In Ohio, Republicans have pushed some version of a transgender sports ban every year since 2020, with the latest version specifically targeting transgender girls and women as they reach high school and college.

Because Biden’s proposal is not yet an official rule, Ohio’s most recent version of a transgender sports ban — scheduled for a public hearing at the Ohio Statehouse later this week — could still keep transgender student athletes from competing.

First introduced by Republican Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) three years ago, the “Save Women’s Sports Act” is currently attached to House Bill 6, and will be heard before the Ohio House Higher Education Committee this Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.

Ohio Republicans publicly introduced HB 6 in February as part of their list of priorities for the 135th General Assembly, mirroring language from a swathe of anti-transgender legislation in more than 20 other states.

The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) already have specific sets of medical criteria trans athletes must meet in order to compete at the high school or collegiate level.

OHSAA has publicly condemned HB 6, and maintains its current standards have been effective in ensuring fair competition between transgender and cisgender athletes across the state.

The issue nationally

At the federal level, the Biden Administrations new Title IX proposals have already caused controversy surrounding the rights of LGBTQ+ students. 

In July, Ohio joined 21 other states in suing the Biden Administration after it released a proposed change to Title IX that would protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Biden’s newest proposal would make it illegal to ban transgender student athletes from competing in sports simply because they are transgender, but still allows states and institutions the power to create new criteria based on specific factors like the age of the athlete or the nature of the competition.

“Every student should be able to have the full experience of attending school in America, including participating in athletics, free from discrimination. Being on a sports team is an important part of the school experience for students of all ages,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a written summary of the proposal released on April 6.

The summary explains that the newest proposal would generally allow transgender athletes to compete with no restrictions at the elementary school level — when students are often still learning “basic skills in physical fitness, leadership, and teamwork.”

However, the rule would leave room for new “sex-based” criteria to be created by states and private institutions alike based on factors like age, size, grade level and level of competition.

For instance, schools that have minimally competitive “no-cut” teams are encouraged to let trans students play at every level, while highly competitive high schools could choose to create their own sets of criteria in order to “[ensure] fairness in competition or [prevent] sports-related injury.”

National LGBTQ+ organizations respond

The National Center for Lesbian Rights has applauded the proposal, calling transgender student athletes “an integral part of every school across this country,” who must be “treated fairly and equally and as respected members of their school communities.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the country’s largest and most powerful LGBTQ+ civil rights organization — also celebrated the proposed rule, but expressed concern over the long-term effects of anti-transgender legislation on transgender student athletes.

In a written statement, HRC President Kelly Robinson even called for an addition to the rule that presumes transgender students are eligible to compete, in direct opposition to the invasive genital examinations Ohio Republicans proposed last year as part of a “gender verification” process.

“Every student deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. This includes transgender girls of all ages and in all sports, without exception,” Robinson said. 

“This moment we’re in is truly a crisis for transgender young people — and we’re calling on elected leaders at every level of government to fight harder for our kids,” she added. “For all of us who believe in equality and justice for all, we should be relentless in our work to undo the harms that have already been done and our pursuit of a better tomorrow.” 

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