Arkansas has become the second U.S. state in 2021 to ban transgender athletes from competing in female sports.
On Thursday, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Senate Bill 354, also known as the "Fairness in Women’s Sports Act," into law after it passed both chambers with overwhelming support.
Under the bill, any “interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic team or sport that is expressly designated for females, women, or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex.”
The legislation separates school-sponsored sports into three categories (male, female and coed sports) “based on biological sex”.
Hutchinson explained in a statement on Thursday that he signed the bill in an effort to “promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.”
“... I have studied the law and heard from hundreds of constituents on this issue. I signed the law as a fan of women’s sports from basketball to soccer and including many others in which women compete successfully”, Hutchinson said. “This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition.”
The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin and Rep. Sonia Barker, passed through the Senate in a vote of 28-7 and the House in a vote of 75-18 before being sent to Hutchinson’s desk to be signed.
Hutchinson’s signing of SB354 was met with opposition from Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBTQ civil rights organization. The HRC denounced the bill calling it “cruel and harmful” for prohibiting trans athletes from competing in sports from elementary school “all the way to college.”
“Governor Hutchinson’s eagerness to sign this discriminatory legislation is an affront not just to the transgender kids it is bound to hurt but to all Arkansans who will be impacted by its consequences,” the HRC tweeted on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Christiana Holcomb, who serves as legal counsel for the conservative law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, praised the success of the measure after it was passed in the state legislature. Holcomb argued in a Tuesday statement that “girls deserve to compete on a level playing field” and “allowing males to compete in girls’ sports destroys fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities.”
Arkansas’s ban on trans athletes in female sports comes two weeks after Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves passed similar legislation.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jacob Lund
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.