In Dead of Night, Georgia lawmakers sneak through laws that allow discrimination against transgender children in school sports

ATLANTA — Following the passage this morning of Georgia House Bill 1084, a law establishing an athletics committee with the power to ban transgender youth from playing on sports teams based on their gender identity, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – the the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization – condemned the move as discriminatory, unnecessary and harmful to the state’s LGBTQ+ students.

“Everything about this law and the manner in which it was passed demonstrates the intention of Governor Brian Kemp and Republican Legislative Leaders to evade responsibility for harming Georgia’s transgender youth.” said Cathyrn Oakley, HRC’s Legislative Director and Senior Counsel. “By changing this bill on the last day of the session to focus on transgender students, they prevented the actual people concerned from speaking out about why this is wrong. By passing it after midnight, they escaped immediate scrutiny for a shameful vote. And by taking the decision to a newly created athletics board, they can pretend their hands are clean once certain discriminatory policies are put in place. “Make no mistake – there is no crisis with transgender youth playing sports in Georgia. Decades of experience in states across the country shows that this is not a problem. Self-serving politicians who cater to an extreme section of their party’s grassroots show they are willing to harm vulnerable children who just want to play with their friends. When Gov. Kemp signs this law, he will once again distinguish himself as someone willing to harm a vulnerable LGBTQ+ population – in this case children – to further his own political ambitions.”

The legislation comes after a Utah bill was Vetoed by Republican Gov. Spencer Cox. In his veto, Cox wrote: “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.”

Other Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana also vetoed a bill Discrimination against transgender children who played sports last month, citing a lack of evidence to justify the bill.

House Bill 1084 is the second attempt this year by the Georgia Republican legislature to discriminate against transgender youth. In February, the Senate passed SB 435, which included an outright ban on transgender students from playing on sports teams that conform to their gender identity. This bill was never considered by the Georgia House of Representatives and is now defunct as the state’s annual legislative session comes to an end.

Strong opposition to discriminatory attacks on the LGBTQ+ population

This is shown by the latest PRRI data Support for LGBTQ+ rights is increasing in Georgia and nationally: 76% of Georgians support protection against non-discrimination, and 59% of Georgians oppose conscientious objection on religious grounds. About eight in 10 Americans (79%) support legislation that would protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in jobs, public places and homes. This reflects an 11 percent increase in the proportion of Americans who support antidiscrimination protections since 2015 (71%).

Anti-transgender discrimination in sport is fought by prominent advocates for women and girls in sport — such as the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports, and others — who support trans-inclusive policies and efforts opposed to excluding transgender students from participating in sports. So have prominent athletes like Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe and Cheryl Reeve.

LGBTQ+ children face real threats and obstacles. 86% of LGBTQ+ youth say they have been the victim of bullying, harassment or assault at school. Studies have shown that bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ youth contribute to high levels of absenteeism, school dropout, negative health outcomes and underachievement in school. Left unchecked, such bullying has led to dangerous situations for young people. Lawmakers should not harass trans children.

A campaign of hate that is spreading across the country

This year, statewide officials in Texas have attempted to criminalize transitional care for minors, and lawmakers in Alabama are about to pass appropriate legislation. In FloridaIf it becomes law, the “Don’t say gay or trans” law is intended to prevent teachers from speaking about LGBTQ+ issues or people, further stigmatize LGBTQ+ people, and isolate LGBTQ+ children. Iowa recently became the country’s first state to enact nationwide anti-discrimination protections that include LGBTQ+ people in a bid to reverse course by banning transgender women and girls from participating in sports that conform to their gender identity. And in South DakotaGovernor Noem said it “sads me” to hear about the high rates of depression among LGBTQ+ people in her state just days after she enacted the first anti-trans law of 2022.

While the sponsors of these bills make disingenuous claims about what their bills will accomplish, their supporters are revealing their true intentions. Advisors and associates to Republican governors in Florida, Texas and South Dakota, as well as a legislature in Iowa, have come out publicly this year, revealing that these bills are more about prejudice against transgender people than any real political position.

Organizations supporting Senator Lee’s legislation include a litany of anti-LGBTQ+ organizations, including Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council. The work of these groups includes efforts to criminalize LGBTQ+ relationships, to challenge established laws like marriage equality, and even to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Businesses, advocacy groups and athletes oppose anti-trans legislation

Nearly 200 major US companies have opposed proposed anti-transgender legislation in states across the country. Companies such as Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, AT&T, AirBnB, Dell, Dow, Google, IBM, Lyft, Marriott, Microsoft, Nike and Paypal have objected to these bills. Four of the largest U.S. food companies also condemned “dangerous, discriminatory laws that serve as an attack on LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender and non-binary people,” and the Walton Family Foundation issued a statement expressing “concern” about the trend of anti-transgender legislation that was recently enacted into Arkansas law.

The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups, representing more than 7 million youth service professionals and more than 1,000 children’s charities, have released an open letter urging state legislators across the country to oppose dozens of bills , which specifically target LGBTQ+ people and transgender children.

Nearly 550 collegiate athletes have defied anti-transgender legislation by demanding the NCAA pull championships from states that have enacted anti-trans sports laws.

A survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group found that the public is strongly on the side of fairness and equality for transgender sports students when it comes to transgender youth participation in sports. 73% of voters agree that “sport is important in young people’s lives. Young transgender people should be given opportunities to participate in ways that are safe and convenient for them.”

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization campaigning for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are accepted as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.