(The Center Square) — For the second year in a row, the Maryland Legislature killed a bill known as the “Fairness in Girls’ Sports” bill that would disallow biological males from playing girls’ sports in junior varsity and varsity teams.
Though 25 states have seen fit to adopt a version of the bill, it hasn’t seen the same success in Maryland, where the governor designated March 31 International Transgender Day of Visibility last year.
Many were at the bill’s hearing before the House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee to speak on its behalf. Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, who brought the original legislation after which bills like House Bill 47 are modeled and who added in testimony that Maryland’s bill was less restrictive than some of the legislation that has been passed elsewhere.
“I applaud Maryland for trying to narrow down and put this in a very small window, a very small touch, so that we’re allowing for our girls to have fair competition and a fair chance starting in junior high and high school. I don’t know if you could have a smaller touch in doing it this way,” Ehardt said.
Another supporter was Kathleen Goonan, an internal medicine specialist who has worked as a volunteer adviser to detransitioners and parents of children wrestling with their gender identity. She sees inherent unfairness in allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports.
“Males have innate biological advantages in sports… Males differentiate from females beginning in pregnancy and this only accelerates dramatically in adolescence. Those advantages involve every physiologic system,” Goonan said.
She expressed concerns regarding the role sports play in social gender transition, something she sees as harmful to minors.
“Allowing boys to participate in girls’ sports is a form of social gender transition that creates confusion for everyone involved and is not supported by quality medical evidence. It is the first step in the so-called gender affirmation model … European experts in gender medicine are all moving away from this approach as we speak,” she said.
The first person to testify against the bill was a law student from the University of Baltimore, A Rand, on behalf of the newly formed Trans Law Student Association.
“If you leave here today and only one thing is clear to you, let it be this: HB 47 is not about fairness. It is not about protecting girls. It is not about equality in sports or anywhere…. It gives permission to hate and fear trans people and to act out violently,” Rand said.
Lee Blinder, executive director of Trans Maryland, also testified against the bill, saying it relied on a “misunderstanding of science and biology” and was “an openly bigoted act against trans-identifying girls.”
“We are deeply embarrassed to see Maryland legislators bullying young trans girls today with this discriminatory legislation. You can pick on trans adults if you must, but leave trans minors alone,” Blinder said.
Blinder cited an amicus brief from the American Medical Association in support of transgender participation on sports teams of their gender identity.
“In order for transgender females to live their lives fully and in accordance with their gender identity, they must be able to publicly identify and compete as female athletes,” the AMA wrote.
Several Maryland legislators also spoke in defense of the transgender community, which they believe is harmed by the legislation.
“I was looking at the list of anti-trans bills that have been sponsored across the country and it’s not just about the bills that pass, right?” said Del. Joe Vogel, D-Montgomery County. “It’s the effect on the mental health of trans kids that bills like this have even if they don’t pass…. I hope that this bill does not come back next year and we join that list of states that has no anti-trans bills sponsored in the legislature because we know that there is a mental health crisis facing our trans kids and this is just hurting them more.”
Del. Kris Fair, D-Frederick County, quoted the American Academy of Pediatrics, which holds the same position as the AMA on transgender participation in sports, toward the end of the hearing.
“‘Withholding gender-affirming care is child maltreatment’ and ‘harmful to children that amounts to state-sanctioned medical neglect and emotional abuse,’” Fair said.
The Ways and Means Committee overwhelmingly voted to kill the bill on Thursday.