The state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta have always had global athletic ambitions.

From the construction of the country’s first NCAA D1 soccer stadium in 1913 to the 1996 Summer Olympics and three Super Bowls, Atlanta has sought to become an epicenter of the sports world. Given the growing number of athletes using their voices for racial and LGBT justice, the city’s rich civil rights history also makes it an ideal place to bring together athletes and fans from around the world with a shared love of sport.

However, bills have been tabled in Georgian legislature slated for a Senate hearing this week, targeting transsexual youths, to limit their participation in sports based on their gender at birth and deprive them of gender-based health care. And if state lawmakers pass them and openly discriminate against transgender youth who want to play sports, it could hurt Atlanta’s hopes of hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

In 2018, the USA, Canada and Mexico jointly submitted their successful “United 2026” application to host the 2026 World Cup. Atlanta is one of 17 US cities competing for 10 US host cities. As part of the application process, the US was asked to disclose human rights risks and an action plan to address them. Human Rights Watch worked closely with FIFA to lead this process on the idea that states can raise the bar for protecting human rights and be competitive on that basis.

But if Georgia passes discriminatory laws, Atlanta could see its hosting ambitions sidelined.

FIFA’s pioneering human rights policy is committed to “creating a non-discriminatory environment within its organization and in all its activities” and declares that “the FIFA Statutes prohibit all forms of discrimination”, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Even without the anti-trans law, the lack of anti-discrimination protection in Georgia is alarming and gives rise to great concern about Atlanta’s aspirations as a host city.

According to Georgia Equality, Georgia is one of only five states in the country that doesn’t have a state law protecting people from discrimination in public places. It would strengthen Georgia’s commitment to human rights – and Atlanta’s viability as a host city – for the state to enact such safeguards, including laws to protect athletes, fans, Georgians and visitors from around the world from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and different reasons.

As it stands now, Atlanta is facing stiff competition for a location in the host city. Many of its competitors – including New York City, Miami, San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles – are in states with non-discrimination laws that cover public housing. Many of them expressly prohibit or are construed to expressly prohibit or interpret discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity

It was a challenging time for so many in the United States and Georgia. Atlanta has an opportunity to return to the global sports light while bringing much-needed tourism funding and business to the state by hosting the biggest soccer World Cup ever.

Ensuring that all LGBT Georgians can be free for who they are is the best way to recognize the resilience of the city today and the dream of an inclusive future that is well worth cheering for.