Following approval by the Arizona House on Thursday, the legislature as a whole passed SB1165, a bill preventing transgender athletes from competing against those of the opposite gender. If the governor signs the legislation into law, it will impact transgender girls and women; males have biological differences to females that give them advantages in sports, and there are many more boys and men competing in girls and women’s sports. However, the legislation doesn’t address women who take testosterone as part of their hormone therapies, which may give them an advantage over their non-doping peers — a concern posed in the case of transgender wrestler Mack Beggs.
State Representative John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) pushed back against arguments against the bill, namely those that claimed individuals would be banned from competing in any sports entirely, or that sports aren’t really about competition but inclusion. Kavanagh cited the recent incident in which the NCAA awarded William Thomas, who goes by the name Lia Thomas and claims to be a woman, the gold medal in one race within their national D1 collegiate swim competition. The state representative argued that the years of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication committed by the women were for naught in the face of Thomas’ robbery.
“This bill allows everybody to participate in sports. It simply says that you have to go on the team that aligns with your biological gender because quite frankly, puberty conveys significant physical advantages on males. And I think it’s very unfair to make biological female athletes compete at that disadvantage. And it recently came to light in the NCAA swimming area. I think that those biological females have been cheated and robbed of a lifetime of effort,” said Kavanagh. “Clearly, there are many good things that come out of school sports besides competition. It’s fun, there’s physical fitness, there’s health. But competition is one of the major things about school sports, and anybody that doubts that might ask themselves, ‘Why are they keeping score?’ if that’s not the case.”
Democrats insisted that males competing in female sports isn’t and won’t be an issue.
State Representative Melody Hernandez (D-Tempe) claimed that transgender women aren’t dominating women’s sports.
“We talked about whether or not this is actually a problem. Trans youth are not coming in and just dominating women’s sports and switching genders because they want to go dominate sports,” said Hernandez.
State Representative Sarah Liguori (D-Phoenix) claimed that Republicans were merely scared of change and due to their ignorance. Liguori cited Harvey Milk, the historic gay rights activist accused of pedophilia and rape.
“We do not need to be afraid. We do not need to be afraid of transgender people, we do not need to be afraid of children,” said Liguori.
Certain Democrats even challenged the idea that males have any physical advantages over females. State Representative Mitzi Epstein (D-Chandler) argued that the males who dominate are merely exceptions to a rule, and that they succeed because of their hard work and discipline — not their biological advantages.
“When we hear of one trans athlete making great success, it is due to the hard work and discipline she applied to her sport,” wrote Epstein. “One example does not mean all trans people are better at sports than cis people.”
A Senate bill banning males from female sports teams advanced out of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, passing along party lines. The legislation would apply to both private and public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.
The legislation prohibits political groups, licensing organizations, and athletic associations from investigating or taking action against schools for adhering to the bill provisions. Conversely, a school would bear civil liability for any deprivation of athletic opportunity, or causing direct or indirect harm by ignoring the legislation. Students would be entitled to take a private cause of action and could earn damages and relief.
The bill sponsor, State Senator Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), said that the bill was based on scientific fact to ensure that girls have a “fair, level playing field.” Barto said that the threat of biological males identifying as females undermined Title IX.
Barto cited data from Save Women’s Sports, a coalition to prevent males from competing in female sports, documenting the males competing in female sports. Barto also cited the case of Lia Thomas, the transgender woman on the Penn State University women’s swim team.
After dubbing Barto the “Queen of Mean,” Arizona House Democrats praised a 13-year-old transgender girl, Skyler Morrison, who spoke against the legislation. The boy was accompanied by his mother.
“I’ve had my childhood ripped away from me by legislators for seven years and I’m sick of fighting for human rights, but I won’t stop until I know that me and all my transgender friends are safe,” said Morrison. “These anti-trans sports bills are unscientific and cause a real mental health issue for the people they would affect.”
Morrison claimed that testosterone doesn’t give biological males an athletic edge, and that females could still win in competition against their male peers.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association revealed that they have received 16 appeals for transgender athletes and only denied one.
Minority Whip Domingo DeGrazia (D-Tucson) claimed that the bill solved something that wasn’t an issue.
“If a youth loses an opportunity for something either to be in competition or that they lose a competition or that they don’t get a sponsorship or that they don’t get to be an influencer of TikTok; if that’s their indirect harm, how do you attribute that to sports to an opposing player?” asked DeGrazia.
After the committee approved the bill, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman claimed that the bill would harm all student athletes — even those females whose opportunities and possibly safety that the bill promised to protect.
The “Save Women’s Sports Act,” a bill prohibiting transgender women from competing in K-12 and collegiate women’s sports, advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
State Senator Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix) introduced the bill, SB1165, but was absent from the committee hearing. Matt Sharp, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), spoke on behalf of Barto. Sharp recounted several instances of biological men that identified as transgender women dominating in women’s sports, and the losses that biological women faced. Sharp further explained the constitutional and legal support that the bill had in ensuring a “fair and level playing field” for women, citing opinions from the Arizona and federal supreme courts.
“It protects opportunities for women and girls, by ensuring women are not forced to compete against men playing on women’s teams,” said Sharp.
State Senator Martin Quezada (D-Glendale) asked Sharp if Arizona had experienced any instances or issues with transgender women in girl’s sports. Sharp responded that the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) policy allows males to compete in women’s sports. Quezada insisted that a problem hadn’t occurred yet, insinuating that the bill wasn’t necessary; Sharp retorted that the intent of the bill was to be preventative.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Vince Leach (R-Tucson), asked if there were some kind of walls that would keep out the issues of males competing in female sports. Sharp affirmed that he’d witnessed states expressing regret for not taking proactive measures to prevent males from intruding on female sports.
“It’s never a bad time to implement good policy,” remarked Chairman Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert).
Several community members testified, both for and against the bill — including one transgender woman. He said he supported the bill.
“Believe me when I say this is not an attack on transness at all. This bill has nothing to do with that. All this bill has to do with is biological sex, biological reality, alright? So the reality is, we’re stronger, we’re taller, we have bigger bones, we can take in more oxygen, we have a better fat distribution that gives us an advantage in taking hits, right, we have stronger ligaments. There are very clear, obvious advantages,” stated the transgender woman.
Quezada was joined in voting against the bill by Assistant Minority Leader Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale) and Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson). Those who voted to pass the bill in addition to Leach and Petersen were Vice Chairman Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) and Majority Whip Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City).