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Current Status and Economic Impact of Transgender Bill Legislation
By Jackie Reau, Game Day
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The participation of transgender and transsexual people in competitive sports is a controversial issue, particularly where athletes who have gone through male puberty are notably successful in women's sport, or represent a significant increased injury risk to female-by-birth competitors.
Resistance to transwomen competing in women's sports generally focuses on physiological attributes such as height and weight, or performance metrics such as speed and strength—and whether sustained testosterone suppression can adequately reduce any natural advantages of male body characteristics within a given women's sport.
Access regulations requiring that transathletes compete against athletes of the same assigned sex at birth and requiring sex verification testing have been used. Proponents of such regulations regard them as necessary to ensure fair competition, while opponents regard them as discriminatory.
Additionally, there is no service or organization that tracks the number of transgender athletes nationally. While it is difficult to determine the number of transgender people in the United States, a recent Gallup survey released this year estimated that about 0.6 percent of the country’s adults identify as transgender.
The Political Debate
Thirty-three states have introduced more than 100 bills related to transgender athlete participation across the country, with advocacy groups calling 2021 a record-breaking year for such legislation. Many of these bills are rapidly making their way through state legislatures. On April 6, Arkansas became the first state to outlaw providing gender-affirming treatment to minors, a move that the American Civil Liberties Union said would "send a terrible and heartbreaking message" to transgender youth across the country.
According to data from the Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation's largest LGBTQ advocacy groups, at least 117 bills have been introduced in the current legislative session that target the transgender community. It's the highest number the organization has recorded since it began tracking anti-LGBTQ legislation more than 15 years ago.
The flurry of bills come as part of a Republican response to an executive order signed by President Joe Biden on his first day in office, called “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” The order broadly expanded transgender protections in employment law to schools and other areas of government oversight, but did not create any new guidelines when it came to school sports. (Forbes)
On January 20, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden signed an Executive Order Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation. The order prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, affirming a Supreme Court ruling from last year that said work places could not fire people for being gay or transgender.
The Economic Impact on States that Restrict Transgender Women in Sports
According to USA Today, the ramifications of these discriminatory bills on states’ economic and financial health are also well-documented. A UCLA study found that the social, economic and health effects of stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people negatively impact Texas’ economy by tens of millions of dollars each year. Another study by the Texas Association of Business estimated that discriminatory legislation could result in an estimated economic loss to Texas’ gross domestic product ranging from $964 million to $8.5 billion.
This month, USA Cycling announced that they will change the venue for the 2021 USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championship after the organization learned of an anti-transgender bill being considered in the host state’s legislature. The legislation would have barred transgender youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity, according to USAC, although they did not say which state the championship was slated to host. The legislation in the unnamed state was passed into law. Subsequently, USAC is currently reviewing new venue options, which they have deemed as “feasible.”
Ellen Staurowsky, a sports media professor at Ithaca College and national expert on social justice in sport, said the NCAA’s threat of pulling championships has had real impact on policy decisions by state lawmakers. Staurowsky noted that a slight change last year to the NCAA’s Confederate flag policy, which said that championships would not be played “in states where the symbol has a prominent presence,” effectively pressured Mississippi legislators and Governor Tate Reeves to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state’s flag.
As we know, the final four games of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament can bring in between $250 million and $300 million for a host city in a good year. A city hosting the women’s tournament can reap between $100 million and $125 million, and other sports championships -- there are about 90 events total -- can have significant economic impact.
Companies and Advocacy Organizations Take A Stand
So far, 106 companies have signed the Business Statement Opposing Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation stating their clear opposition to harmful legislation aimed at restricting the access of LGBTQ people in society. Companies objecting to these bills include: Amazon, American Airlines, Altria, Apple, AT&T, AirBnB, Dell, Facebook, Google, Hilton, IBM, IKEA, Microsoft, Nike, Paypal, Peloton, Pfizer, Uber, and Verizon.
We expect states to continue to introduce legislation on both sides of the issue for the foreseeable future. While the new laws—and court challenges—will be debated for years to come, destinations need to be aware of their state’s regulations and the financial ramifications. Rights holders need to be aware of the host state’s stance on the issue as they plan future events and how they will form selection criteria their destination.
Read the full white paper here.