Oklahoma and Arizona, who enacted their own law later Wednesday, joined three other GOP-led states that have imposed similar bans this year.
In pushing such measures, conservatives have argued that transgender women and girls have physical advantages over women and girls in sports, although a 2017 report found “no direct or consistent research” on any such advantage.
“When it comes to sports and athletics, girls should compete with girls. Boys should compete against boys. And let’s be very clear: That’s all this bill says,” State said at the signing ceremony. However, the bill now prevents some girls in the state from competing with other girls.
“We’ve all seen pictures with swimmer Ben, and we absolutely don’t want that to happen to this young lady next to me when she grows up and goes to high school, and we’re making that stand today in Oklahoma.”
Opponents of the Oklahoma State law immediately condemned. The ACLU said it “sent a clear message to vulnerable transgender youth in Oklahoma that they are not welcome or accepted in our state.”
The law takes effect immediately
Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled legislature gave final approval to SB 2, dubbed the “Women’s Sports Rescue Act,” last week and the law went into effect immediately upon the governor’s approval.
The legislation requires sports teams in Oklahoma public schools and colleges and public schools and private schools whose teams compete against those in public schools to designate sports teams as either co-ed or based on “biological sex.”
The law states that “female,” “women,” or “girls” sports teams will not be open to male students. The legislation requires parents of students 18 years of age or younger to sign an affidavit “acknowledging the student’s biological sex at birth.” Students 18 years of age and older need to sign the affidavit themselves.
While gender is a category that broadly refers to physiology, a person’s gender is an innate sense of identity. Factors involved in determining sex included in a birth certificate may include anatomy, genetics, and hormones, and there is wide normal variation in each of these categories. For this reason, critics have said that the language of “biological sex”, as used in this legislation, is overly simplistic and misleading.
The new law also allows “a student who has been denied a sporting opportunity or suffers any direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation” of the ban to file a civil lawsuit against the school.
The NCAA has opposed such a ban, saying last April it was monitoring them closely to make sure NCAA tournaments could be held “in ways that welcome and respect all participants.”
The debate over the inclusion of transgender athletes, especially women and girls, has become a political flashpoint, especially among conservatives.
Last year, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia issued similar sports bans, infuriating LGBT advocates, who argue that conservatives create a problem where there is no problem.
This story has been updated with additional details and background information.