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Mississippi gov signs bill limiting transgender athletes

March 11, 2021 GMT
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signs the first state bill in the U.S. this year to ban transgender athletes from competing on female sports teams, as supporting lawmakers gather behind him, Thursday, March 11, 2021, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signs the first state bill in the U.S. this year to ban transgender athletes from competing on female sports teams, as supporting lawmakers gather behind him, Thursday, March 11, 2021, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signs the first state bill in the U.S. this year to ban transgender athletes from competing on female sports teams, as supporting lawmakers gather behind him, Thursday, March 11, 2021, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill Thursday to ban transgender athletes from competing on girls or women’s sports teams.

Mississippi is the first state this year to enact such a ban, after a federal court blocked an Idaho law last year. Mississippi’s Senate Bill 2536 is set to become law July 1, although a legal challenge is possible.

More than 20 states are proposing restrictions on athletics or gender-confirming health care for transgender minors this year. Conservative lawmakers are responding to an executive order by Democratic President Joe Biden that bans discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere. Biden signed it Jan. 20, the day he took office.

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“But for the fact that President Biden as one of his first initiatives sat down and signed an executive order — which, in my opinion, encourages transgenderism amongst our young people — but for that fact, we wouldn’t be here today,” Reeves said during a ceremony in the Mississippi Capitol, where he was joined by legislators who supported the bill.

Alphonso David, president of the LGBTQ civil rights organization Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement Thursday that the Mississippi law could lead to more bullying of transgender people.

“This law is a solution in search of a problem, and legislators in Mississippi have not provided any examples of Mississippi transgender athletes gaming the system for a competitive advantage because none exist,” David said.

Reeves has three daughters who play sports and he said March 4 on Twitter that Mississippi’s bill would “protect young girls from being forced to compete with biological males for athletic opportunities.”

Chase Strangio, a transgender-rights attorney with the national ACLU, said the Mississippi bill “is very vague and seemingly unenforceable.”

“Unfortunately, there is already rampant discrimination against trans youth in Mississippi, which means people are already driven out of sport,” Strangio said.

The Mississippi Senate passed the bill Feb. 11, and the House passed it March 3. The votes were largely along party lines, with most Republicans supporting the bill and most Democrats either opposing it or refraining from voting.

Republican legislators who pushed the bill gave no evidence of any transgender athletes competing in Mississippi schools or universities.

Supporters of bills such as the one in Mississippi argue that transgender girls, because they were born male, are naturally stronger, faster and bigger than those born female. Opponents say such proposals violate not only Title IX of federal education law prohibiting sex discrimination, but also rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Associated Press writer David Crary contributed to this report from New York. Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.