A proposal in Alabama to limit student athletes to school sports that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate was tabled last week, with public speakers depicting it as “hateful.”
Republican state Rep. Chris Pringle, who proposed the Gender is Real Legislative (GIRL) Act, said he believes the law was tabled because of procedural issues and that it will be put on the committee’s agenda again this week.
The GIRL Act would bar Alabama government or agencies from holding single-gender competitions that include a transgender entrant. Any activities designed for girls and boys would be exempt.
Mr. Pringle, who is running for Congress in the Mobile district in November, pushed back against the suggestion his legislation is hurtful or discriminatory.
“This bill is not hateful at all,” he said. “It’s just to make sure young women can compete fairly in high school athletics.”
He said the opposition is misinformed.
“This bill is common-sensical and based on science,” he said. “Liberal Democrats are always saying we somehow refuse science, but gender is a real, biological truth.”
Other state legislatures also are grappling with the issue of transgender athletes at the scholastic level. Mr. Pringle quoted a Connecticut athlete who said transgender girls have an unfair advantage. Three track athletes there have filed a federal lawsuit against Connecticut’s laws that allow transgender girls to compete against cisgender girls.
Six people spoke against Mr. Pringle’s bill at Alabama’s public hearing, arguing that “myth and fear,” not science, lead to any differences in gender. The Yellowhammer Fund, which opposes “this hateful, divisive bill,” posted the remarks on its Facebook page.
“HB35 symbolizes hate in our state,” said Travis Jackson, an Iraq War veteran who said Mr. Pringle’s measure could trigger a wave of anti-trans legislation.
They were joined by Democratic state Rep. John Rogers, from Birmingham, who said he opposes it because his favorite football player is transgender.
Mr. Rogers said at the hearing that he knew of some 20 football players who are transgender, including “my favorite player.” Mr. Rogers said he could not recall that player’s name, although he said he is in the process of getting cut by the “North Carolina Panthers” because he is transgender.
Afterwards, Yellowhammer News, a conservative website, asked Mr. Rogers about his puzzling remarks. He said he was referring to Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn University.
But Mr. Rogers told the website he was mistaken and that he meant Mr. Newton is gay. Gay athletes are not mentioned in the proposed bill.
Mr. Newton is neither transgender nor gay. He has four children with his girlfriend Kia Proctor.
Mr. Rogers did not return a phone call Friday. He is no stranger to controversy in the Legislature. Last year, when lawmakers were debating an anti-abortion bill, he made national news when he said abortion was no big deal, given we “will kill them now or kill them later.”
“Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or you kill them later,” he said. “You bring them into the world unwanted, unloved, you send them to the electric chair. So, you kill them now or you kill them later.”
Mr. Pringle confessed he was nonplussed by Mr. Rogers’ statements.
“I’m not sure what Mr. Rogers is talking about, but the bill has nothing to do with Cam Newton.”
As committee members moved in and out of the hearing, Mr. Pringle said the motion fell by the wayside. He will introduce it for a vote this week, he said.
• James Varney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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