An outdoor basketball hoop is seen in Bethel in October 2022. Alaskans will be able to play only on sports teams that match their gender at birth through college if a new bill becomes law. (Photo by Claire Stremple)

An outdoor basketball hoop is seen in Bethel in October 2022. Alaskans will be able to play only on sports teams that match their gender at birth through college if a new bill becomes law. (Photo by Claire Stremple)

Alaska House committee advances, expands proposal to bar trans girls from girls sports

Bill adds elementary, middle school and collegiate sports to limits in place for high school.

Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee expanded and advanced a bill that would limit Alaska students’ sports participation to teams that match their sex at birth. Twenty-four states have passed similar laws.

House Bill 183 was amended in the committee’s Friday meeting to include collegiate sports as well as elementary and middle school sports. Transgender girls are already barred from participation in girls high school sports by a regulation adopted by Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s appointees on the state Board of Education and Early Development last year.

Both supporters and opponents of the controversial proposal feel their rights are at risk. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jamie Allard, R-Eagle River, said its aim is to maintain fairness for girls and women who participate in sports.

Reps. Andrew Gray and Cliff Groh, both Anchorage Democrats and committee members, opposed the bill’s expansion and advancement.

Gray attempted to keep the bill from advancing out of committee, but his objection failed.

“We’ve heard a lot of testimony against the bill. I think we should respect the will of the people of Alaska to not bring this very hateful, harmful legislation to the body,” he said.

Groh said he was concerned that the proposal would be vulnerable to lawsuits. “I think that the costs of adopting this legislation very much exceeds the benefits. I’m also very concerned about the potential for successful constitutional claims against this legislation,” he said.

Dozens of Alaskans testified against the bill on Friday. While the voices of support were outnumbered in public testimony, hundreds of people wrote to the House Education and Judiciary committees to encourage the bill’s passage.

Michael Garvey, the advocacy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, said the bill is unconstitutional and discriminatory.

“Alaska’s constitution provides explicit privacy and due process protection, which apply to public schools. HB 183 cannot be implemented and enforced without violating those rights,” he said. “Additionally, HB 183 would deprive transgender girls of equal access to opportunities to engage in sports, which are a way to build skill, resilience and community.”

Olivia Emery, the mother of an LGBTQ child, was tearful in her testimony. She said her daughter is not trans, but already experiences a lot of bullying.

“This would be a green flag for classmates who already wish to cause her harm both mental and physical,” she said, echoing the concern of other testifiers.

Alexander Rosales, an Eagle River resident, testified in support of the bill on Friday. He said his experience in the military showed him that men and women have different physical capabilities. “So I want to come here as a dad, as a man and speak on behalf of women,” he said. “We should be protecting, looking out for them and stand beside women and defend their rights in sports and not look at it as somebody’s being disenfranchised in any way.”

In order to become law, the bill would have to be approved by the House and the Senate.

• Claire Stremple is a reporter based in Juneau who got her start in public radio at KHNS in Haines, and then on the health and environment beat at KTOO in Juneau. This article originally appeared online at Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.

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