Newly elected lawmaker files bill to restrict transgender athletes

    The 2020 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly starts Jan. 13. Beau Evans/Georgia Recorder

    A Republican lawmaker elected in October filed a bill this week that proposes to ban sports teams from using public facilities if transgender children are competing in single-sex events that differ from their biological sex assigned at birth.

    State Rep. Philip Singleton’s legislation proposes to prohibit people of different biological sexes from interscholastic competition in Georgia athletic events “exclusively for males” or “exclusively for females.” 

    The measure drew swift criticism from the nonprofit Georgia Equality as discrimination against transgender high school students in Georgia. Its proposed restrictions threatens to make life tougher for transgender youth already coping with tough social circumstances, said the nonprofit’s executive director, Jeff Graham.

    “The last thing our nation’s young people need is politicians making it even harder by singling them out for their own political gain, and increasing their already high risk of bullying and harassment,” Graham said in a statement Friday.

    Singleton, a Sharpsburg Republican, said he filed his bill Thursday to “preempt” similar disputes over sports fairness so that “it just never becomes an issue” in Georgia.

    State Rep. Philip Singleton

    Its intent is to give parents a “reasonable expectation” that athletes competing against each other share similar skill levels, Singleton said. That determination, he said, has much to do with a person’s biological sex.

    He also said the bill’s scope is limited to sports teams and athletic associations that have formal policies separating male and female athletes. If a sports organization does not have a gender policy, the bill’s restrictions would not apply.

    “There’s no social engineering here whatsoever,” Singleton said Friday. “It’s completely up to the organization’s discretion.”

    The Georgia High School Association that oversees statewide school sports does not allow students designated male at birth to play on female teams. Female students can play on male teams only if a sport the school hosts does not have corresponding female team.

    It’s Singleton’s first piece of legislation since he won a special election to the Georgia House of Representatives this fall. The U.S. Army veteran won the District 71 seat covering parts of Coweta and Fayette counties held by former state Rep. David Stover, who resigned in June.

    It’s also the second bill filed early for the 2020 legislative session that proposes government regulation of sex and gender decisions in Georgia. State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, a Powder Springs Republican, announced in late October she plans to file a bill barring doctors from assisting children with gender transition.

    Beau Evans
    Beau Evans has covered local and state government and breaking news in New Orleans and California. He’s reported on immigration issues, the threat of rising seas to coastal areas, public safety and hurricanes. At The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Evans detailed the critical role government plays to ensure that people in a community have access to clean water and other public needs. In 2018, his investigative reporting revealed top officials at New Orleans’ cash-poor water utility dealt themselves huge raises, prompting several to resign. Evans’ prior reporting was in West Marin north of San Francisco for The Point Reyes Light. Evans is an Atlanta native who graduated with honors from The Lovett School and is an honors graduate of North Carolina’s Davidson College. Beau was with the Georgia Recorder until January 4th, 2020.