The Republican-led House passed a bill Thursday that would bar federally supported schools and colleges from allowing biological males to compete on girls’ or women’s sports teams.
The legislation approved by a 219-203 vote is unlikely to advance further because the Democratic-led Senate will not support it and the White House said President Joe Biden would veto it.
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Supporters said the legislation, which would put violators at risk of losing taxpayer dollars, is necessary to ensure competitive fairness. They framed the vote as supporting female athletes disadvantaged by having to compete against those who went through male puberty, which makes them dangerously strong and fast compared to biological women.
Transgender people would still be allowed to compete in men’s sports, but opponents said that is not enough.
The House action comes as at least 20 other states have imposed similar limits on trans athletes at the K-12 or collegiate level.
The bill would amend landmark civil rights legislation passed more than 50 years ago. The amendment would prohibit recipients of federal money from permitting a person “whose sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls.” The bill defines sex as “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
The sponsor, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., highlighted the case of Emma Weyant, a resident of his district and a 2020 member of the U.S. Olympic swimming team who finished second in the NCAA women’s 500-yeard freestyle championship last year.
She was defeated by Lia Thomas, who had competed for three years on the University of Pennsylvania men’s swimming team before joining the women’s team.
“The integrity of women’s sports must be protected,” Steube said.
Rep. Aaron Bean, R- Fla, said that every time a male takes a lane in the pool or at the starting line, a female athlete loses the opportunity to compete.
“We are in a battle for the very survival of women’s sports,” Bean said.
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In a message this week threatening a veto, the White House said that being part of a team is an important part of growing up, staying engaged in school and learning leadership and life skills. It said a national ban that does not account for competitiveness or grade level targets people for who they are and is discriminatory.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.