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Restrictive transgender sports bill heads to Iowa governor

March 2, 2022 GMT
FILE - Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, on Jan. 11, 2022, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa legislators on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, gave final approval to a bill that would prohibit transgender females from participating in girls high school sports and women's college athletics, sending a divisive bill likely to draw legal challenges to the governor. Reynolds last year lobbied lawmakers to pass a similar measure but it failed to advance. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
FILE - Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, on Jan. 11, 2022, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa legislators on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, gave final approval to a bill that would prohibit transgender females from participating in girls high school sports and women's college athletics, sending a divisive bill likely to draw legal challenges to the governor. Reynolds last year lobbied lawmakers to pass a similar measure but it failed to advance. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
FILE - Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, on Jan. 11, 2022, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa legislators on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, gave final approval to a bill that would prohibit transgender females from participating in girls high school sports and women's college athletics, sending a divisive bill likely to draw legal challenges to the governor. Reynolds last year lobbied lawmakers to pass a similar measure but it failed to advance. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
FILE - Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, on Jan. 11, 2022, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa legislators on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, gave final approval to a bill that would prohibit transgender females from participating in girls high school sports and women's college athletics, sending a divisive bill likely to draw legal challenges to the governor. Reynolds last year lobbied lawmakers to pass a similar measure but it failed to advance. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
FILE - Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, on Jan. 11, 2022, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa legislators on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, gave final approval to a bill that would prohibit transgender females from participating in girls high school sports and women's college athletics, sending a divisive bill likely to draw legal challenges to the governor. Reynolds last year lobbied lawmakers to pass a similar measure but it failed to advance. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa legislators on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that would prohibit transgender females from participating in girls high school sports and women’s college athletics, sending a divisive bill likely to draw legal challenges to the governor.

Iowa legislators on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that would prohibit transgender girls from participating in girls sports, sending a divisive bill likely to draw legal challenges to the governor.

Gov. Kim Reynolds last year lobbied lawmakers to pass a similar measure but it failed to advance. The Republican governor continues to support the idea, and if she signs the bill Iowa will join 10 other GOP-run states with such laws.

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The state Senate approved the bill Wednesday 31-17, days after the House passed it on a 55-39 vote. Only Republicans supported the measure.

Opponents argue it is state-sanctioned bullying of transgender children. Supporters claimed it was needed to protect female athletes against unfair competition by males who identify as females, though there are few examples of such cases across the country.

Democratic Sen. Claire Celsi, of West Des Moines, said the bill will create years of confusion, lawsuits and unnecessary discrimination toward a protected class of individuals.

“I find this current bill not only legally risky but petty, partisan and hateful and the reasoning shaky,” she said.

Republican Sen. Jesse Greene, of Boone, said by passing the law, Iowa is protecting women and the integrity of competition.

“We send a message to the nation that Iowans will not put common sense aside for wokeness,” he said. “In the midst of an ongoing culture war Iowans are taking bold steps to preserve the integrity and purity of athletic competition for generations to come.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency told lawmakers the state could lose federal funds if authorities find it is violating federal civil rights laws. The agency also said the bill may conflict with participation rules of university, college and junior college athletic organizations, risking loss of eligibility and media rights or competition hosting revenues. The bill also may cost the state litigation expenses.

The bill requires students participating in interscholastic sports sponsored or sanctioned by an accredited nonpublic school or a public school district to play only with others that match the gender listed on their birth certificate. It also has provisions to allow civil lawsuits to uphold the intent of the law. The bill applies to sports from primary school grades into state universities and colleges.

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Lobbyists for school boards, school administrators and teachers said the bill puts educators and school administrators in an untenable position of following federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in sports activities or the new state law.

South Dakota Gov. Krisi Noem signed a similar ban into law in February.

Other states with similar laws include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee and Texas. All passed last year. Enforcement of a 2020 Idaho law is on hold after a federal judge ruled it is likely to be found unconstitutional and a judge in West Virginia last July issued an order allowing an 11-year-old transgender girl to participate in girls cross country, saying the state’s law passed last year unfairly would have violated her constitutional rights and a federal law that guarantees equal treatment of men and women in education and sports programs.