By Andrew Dunn
Carolina Journal News Service
RALEIGH — The General Assembly will soon consider a bill that seeks to protect women’s sports by preventing boys and men from being allowed to compete on female teams in middle school, high school and college.
House Bill 358 would require public schools fielding sports teams to identify teams as male, female, or co-ed. The same would go for UNC System universities and private colleges competing in intercollegiate athletics.
Then, teams designated for women and girls would not be allowed to permit male students to compete on them, as defined by their sex from birth.
The bill says these rules are necessary to protect opportunities for women and girls in athletics, citing numerous scientific studies that point out biological differences that give males an advantage over females in certain sports — like more muscle mass and larger hearts and lungs.
“This bill proactively addresses not what may happen, but when it will happen. I do not want to wait until biological females are pushed out of female sports, records broken, scholarships lost and benefits of excelling diminished,” said Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, during a press conference introducing the bill. “This bill is about fairness and allowing girls like my granddaughter to have a level playing field. Girls deserve equal opportunities in sports.”
Other primary sponsors, with Brody, are Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, Diane Wheatley, R-Cumberland, and Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin.
The bill comes as states across the country are changing policies to allow transgender girls — biological males who say they identify as female — to compete on girls’ sports teams.
In Connecticut, two of these transgender student-athletes racked up 15 state championships in track and field over three years.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association currently permits boys who identify as female to compete on girls’ sports teams if they fill out a “Gender Identity Request Form.” It’s unclear how many of these student-athletes are currently playing.
Under North Carolina’s proposed bill, girls who miss out on state championships or scholarships due to a boy competing alongside them would be able to bring a lawsuit.
The bill is part of a national movement called Save Women’s Sports. The group says North Carolina is the 30th state in which lawmakers have introduced such a bill.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a similar bill into law earlier this month. Other bills are advancing in Florida, Montana, Arkansas and Kansas.
In North Carolina, the bill is backed by the N.C. Values Coalition. The group cites data from the Women’s Sports Foundation that showed a 990% increase in women’s participation in athletics since Title IX passed nearly 50 years ago. That law requires equitable opportunities for boys and girls in scholastic athletics.
“Within the measurement of history, it was not that long ago that women did not have their own sports teams and leagues, and in this way and many others were refused participation in their society,” said Raleigh female athlete Charlie Rae, according to the N.C. Values Coalition. “This is precisely the reason women fought for their own sports leagues, and why sex-segregation in athletics and other spaces in society exist today.”
The bill is at the beginning of a long journey. It was introduced into the House on Monday, March 22, and now sits in committee.
House Bill 358 counts 25 lawmakers as primary or co-sponsors, but there’s no guarantee it will reach a floor vote. General Assembly leadership has been hesitant to take on controversial social issues in the past half decade since House Bill 2 put the state in the national spotlight. That bill, which required people to use the bathroom of their biological sex in public buildings, led to organizations such as the NBA pulling events from the state.