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Georgia Senate passes bill that would 'effectively bar' transgender athletes from school sports

The bill is now going to the House for consideration.

ATLANTA — A state Senate bill that would prevent transgender athletes from competing in school sports aligned with their gender is progressing toward becoming law in Georgia.

Senate Bill 435 passed a major hurdle this week. While the "Save Girls’ Sports Act" still has a ways to go before impacting Georgia schools, the piece of legislation has already surpassed a nearly identical bill from last year's session.

The bill intends to require Georgia students to participate in high school sports according to the sex stated on their birth certificates, barring "a person whose gender is male to participate in any interscholastic or intramural athletics that are designated for females."

The bill applies a definition of gender at odds with the global medical consensus, which sees gender as "socially constructed" and not immutable from birth.

The Georgia bill says gender "means a person's biological sex which shall be recognized solely based on a person's reproductive biology and genetics at birth." 

The legislation passed the Senate floor on Thursday and is now headed to the House for consideration.

Gov. Brian Kemp showed support for the bill in his State of the State speech, saying, "I strongly support [legislation] to ensure fairness in school sports."

The legislation, sponsored by over two dozen Republicans in addition to Kemp, has cultivated controversy on party lines ever since its introduction.

'We separate athletes by their weight in wrestling or their age group or size," Rep. Philip Singleton (R-Sharpsburg), who introduced a similar bill in a previous legislative session, said. "Their biological sex is a category in which they’re separated so that there is parity on the athletic field."

Lambda Legal, a legal organization for LGBTQ civil rights that houses an office in Decatur, said that the bill would be harmful to students and a violation of federal law.

“Excluding transgender students from athletics is not only harmful to those students, doing so also violates federal law and places schools at great risk of liability. For example, SB 435 would effectively bar transgender students from participating in athletics, violating Title IX, the federal law banning sex discrimination in education,” Lambda Legal Southern Regional Director Michael Shutt said in a press release.

Senate Bill 266, nearly identical to this year's "Save Girls’ Sports Act," passed the Senate Education and Youth Committee during last year's legislative session. The bill, however, failed to make it to the Senate floor. With the backing of the Peach State's conservative leaders during an election year and over a score of Republican co-sponsors, this year's version has already surpassed its predecessor.

With a 102 Republican to 77 Democrat split in the Georgia House of Representatives, the GOP has the power to establish it as law. 

To Jen Slipakoff of Kennesaw, the mother to a 14-year-old girl who transitioned around kindergarten, the bill is singling out transgender children unnecessarily.

"I think that trans kids are already walking through their life feeling like all eyes are on them, feeling like they’re different, feeling like they don’t belong. And what are we doing? We’re enacting a law that literally says you don’t belong," Slipakoff told 11Alive's Doug Richards.

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