Right on the heels of signing into law legislation regulating the dispensing of abortion pills – and receiving accolades for doing so – Governor Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) on Friday signed SB2153 extending the state's existing protections for middle and high school female athletes to women in public and private college. The bill states, in part:
"Intercollegiate or intramural athletic teams or sports that are designated for 'females,' 'women,' or 'girls' … shall not be open to students of the male sex."
"… An institution of higher education shall rely upon the sex listed on the student's original birth certificate, if the birth certificate was issued at or near the time of birth …."
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a law firm representing biological female athletes in cases involving men in women's sports. ADF attorney Christiana Keifer says whether in middle school, high school, or college, females deserve to compete on a level playing field.
"An 18-year-old college freshman losing a spot on the team to a male athlete is just as unfair and harmful as when it happens to an 18-year-old high school senior, so that is why we must protect fairness for girls in all grade levels," says Keifer in a press release.
The attorney continues, explaining that clearer policies are needed for college athletes.
"[Especially] after the NCAA failed to stand with its female athletes and instead punted policy questions regarding males competing in women's sports to the unaccountable athletic associations of individual sports," says Kiefer.
"No female athlete should lose her spot on a college team or be denied a scholarship because a male was permitted to compete on a women's team, so we commend Governor Lee and the Tennessee Legislature for enacting SB 2153 and extending protections for fairness in women's sports to collegiate competitions."
Supporters of allowing biological males in female athletics maintain it's about inclusivity and point out the males "identify" as females. Still, ADF and other organizations argue the biological males have a physiological advantage over the biological females – and they add that the biological females' Title IX rights are being violated.
"Thanks to their leadership, women in Tennessee colleges will not be subject to the devastating losses to men that female athletes in other parts of the country are experiencing."
The bill, which passed in the State Senate 27-4 and in the House 70-14, will go into effect July 1.