SALT LAKE CITY, AP — Transgender children would not be required to report certain body measurements to play sports in Utah, but their participation would still depend on a government-appointed panel of experts under a proposal passing through the Republican-controlled legislature.
Rep. Kera Birkeland, a Republican who coaches junior college basketball, said Wednesday she was removing a list of physical attributes from her proposed “School Activities Eligibility Commission,” which would have used criteria such as bone density, hip-to-knee ratio and oxygen saturation to determine eligibility.
The list of physical attributes has caused an outcry from parents of transgender children and LGBTQ advocates, who fear student-athletes may feel controlled and targeted by the commission.
“We are still working on some details. We just want to make sure it’s legally tightened and we address as many concerns as possible,” Birkeland said, adding that she expected the changes to be introduced within a day or two.
The most recent version of the bill would leave the eligibility criteria to the commission. Birkeland said he could still consider the attributes originally included in the bill, but would have more flexibility to tailor decision-making to individual sports, for example, using different criteria for golf versus basketball. ball.
“They will always consider anything that can give them an athletic edge. They can go back and look at these things and consider the hip-knee ratio. They may consider that muscle mass or size… We don’t want to corner them and say, ‘Just consider those things,’” she said.
Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, said LGBTQ advocates expected changes to be introduced, but did not know the extent.
The revision came as GOP-majority legislatures throughout the U.S. debate banned transgender student-athletes from playing youth sports. At least 10 states have banned transgender student-athletes from school sports.
Birkeland proposes creating a one-of-a-kind commission for Utah that transgender children would be required to go through if they want to compete in leagues that match their gender identity, rather than the sex listed on their birth certificates. .
Birkeland, who led last year’s unsuccessful campaign to ban transgender student-athletes from women’s sports in Utah, said the commission balanced two legitimate competing priorities: ensuring that transgender children don’t feel not ostracized and protect fairness in women’s sports.
She framed her proposal as a compromise that would allow transgender athletes to play, while addressing Conservative concerns that such players might have a competitive advantage in women’s sports. She hopes that, if passed, the commission will not be challenged by lawsuits like bans in other states like Idaho.
Of the 85,000 students who play high school sports in the state, four have gone through the Utah High School Activities Association’s transgender participation eligibility review process, the association announced Tuesday. Birkeland said he heard of or observed at least eight other contestants.
While the number of athletes involved is central to the issue under consideration, she declined to justify that number, out of concern for student-athletes who may not wish to have their gender identity widely publicized.
Last year, The Associated Press contacted two dozen lawmakers in more than 20 states considering similar measures and found they could cite a few cases where transgender athletes playing high school sports were causing trouble.
There are no public accusations that a transgender player has competitive advantages in Utah.
LGBTQ advocates and parents of transgender student-athletes have balked at the idea that a panel would “police” the measures of transgender student-athletes — an idea Birkeland said his proposal would not require.
Birkeland said transgender student-athletes could submit any information they wanted to the proposed commission. But if they decide not to submit relevant data points, they may be asked additional questions about the criteria as members determine whether they can compete fairly.
Williams, the executive director of Equality Utah, said he wasn’t sure whether LGBTQ advocates would support the bill once the changes are made public.
Removing the list of physical attributes from the bill, he said, would make the backgrounds of commission members more important.
The commission would include a coach, a representative of a sports association and an athletic trainer, in addition to doctors, statisticians and mental health professionals.
Williams believes it will be biased against young transgender people because at least half of its members would not be transgender health experts, he said.
“It does not strive to find a meaningful balance between the values of competition and the values of participation and is geared more towards sports experts, as opposed to people who have expertise in transgender health care,” said said Williams.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem this month signed into law a ban on transgender girls playing women’s sports at the youth and college levels, and Indiana lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday. ban, sending it to Governor Eric Holcomb for approval.
States that have passed bans have not faced boycotts like North Carolina did when the NCAA and NBA moved events in response to the passage of a 2016 state law. limiting public restrooms that transgender people could use.
But Birkeland’s proposed ban stalled last year amid concerns from Republican Gov. Spencer Cox, who feared passing a ban would jeopardize efforts to hold big events in Utah.
Birkeland’s proposal must be finalized this week because the Utah legislature is scheduled to adjourn Friday.