Bill would reverse transgender sports policy

HSHSL transgender policy vote
After months of review, the Minnesota State High School League voted Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, to let transgender athletes play on the sport teams that best align with their gender identity. The vote was 18 for, one against and one abstention. The decision came at a packed hearing in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (Tim Post | MPR News)

Legislation introduced Monday in the Minnesota House and Senate would tell transgender students which sports teams they can join and which locker rooms they can use.

The bill would undo the Minnesota State High School League’s new transgender athletic policy and prevent school districts from making similar changes. League officials voted in December to let transgender athletes play on the sports teams that best align with their gender identity.

Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said he was concerned by that policy.

“I think that their message was not real clear and confusing, and I think it was an issue that needed to be brought to the Legislature,” Miller said.

Under Miller’s bill, students who are born male would be prohibited from trying out for or participating on a girls’ team. It defines being male or female as a “physical condition”, which is determined by chromosomes and “is identified at birth by a person’s anatomy.”

The proposal also sets strict rules for separate school restrooms, locker rooms and showers.

Sen. David Brown, R-Becker, is sponsoring the bill in the state Senate. Brown said the measure would protect the safety and privacy of all students, including transgender students.

“We think it’s a common sense issue,” Brown said. “The vast majority of Minnesotans who have been polled are in support of not allowing the biological sexes to be mixed in these environments.”

The Minnesota Family Council hailed the bill introductions.

The group Outfront Minnesota described the proposal as another “attack” on LGBTQ Minnesotans.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said the supporters of the bill are trying to judge what’s best for schools rather than allowing local decisions.

“I think the bill really kind of closes its eyes to the real experience of what it means to be transgender in our schools and how difficult that really is,” Dibble said. “I think it just makes that so much more difficult.”

Dibble took issue with the bill’s attempt to define transgender people. He warned that the proposal could also lead to gender discrimination lawsuits.

It’s unclear whether the House or Senate sponsors will get hearings for their bills before the first committee deadline on Mar. 20.

Back in December, Gov. Mark Dayton applauded the high school league’s action. He accused opponents of the transgender policy of "despicable hate-mongering."

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.