The state followed in the footsteps of Mississippi and Arkansas in enacting legislation that supporters argue will protect women’s sports.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee previously claimed that transgender athlete participation would “destroy women’s sports.” He signed the bill on Friday.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee
“I signed the bill to preserve women’s athletics and ensure fair competition,” Lee tweeted. “This legislation responds to damaging federal policies that stand in opposition to the years of progress made under Title IX and I commend members of the General Assembly for their bipartisan work.”
Critics of the bill claim it will lead to legal challenges that will cause needless economic loss, the Tennessean reported. Others argue the controversial bill will deter tourists.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a similar bill on March 11 mandating the separation of sports based on sex at birth.
Mississippi Republicans have said the law, which will affect state schools and universities, is a necessary response to President Biden’s day-one executive order calling on schools across the country to allow students to participate in sports under their chosen gender identity.
“This important piece of legislation will ensure that young girls in Mississippi have a fair, level playing field in public school sports,” Reeves said after signing the bill. “It sends a clear message to my daughters and all of Mississippi’s daughters that their rights are worth fighting for.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, on Thursday signed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, after the measure passed through the State House with overwhelming support earlier this week.
“This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “This will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.”
Approximately 25 bills have popped up across the nation as conservatives fight to protect opportunities for biological females in sports.
Champions for LGBTQ rights have condemned each bill, saying that they are not about “protecting fairness” but “erasing and excluding trans people from … all aspects of public life.”
“This discriminatory policy is illegal,” said Sam Brinton of The Trevor Project, a national group providing transgender youths with crisis prevention services. “The Trevor Project is here 24/7 to support trans youth in Tennessee and across the country who feel hurt and invalidated by these purely political attacks.”
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.