The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed the Save Women’s Sports Act in a party-line vote on Wednesday, a bill that would keep biological men from competing on female sports teams at public schools or universities.
The bill, which says athletic teams “designated for ‘females,’ ‘women’ or ‘girls’ shall not be open to students of the male sex,” aims to give women a chance at fair competition, state represenative Toni Hasenbeck told the Oklahoman.
“We don’t want to create a situation where we are failing to protect our females,” said Hasenbeck, who authored the bill. “Girls have a right to excel in their sport and compete for records on a national scale and compete for scholarships and universities.”
The bill, which passed in a 79 to 18 vote, would also require parents or legal guardians to sign an affidavit attesting to their child’s biological sex before the beginning of each school year in order to compete on a school athletic team. Students who are 18 or older would be required to sign the affidavit themselves.
It now heads to the state Senate for consideration.
Eleven other Republican-led states have passed similar legislation barring transgender athletes for competing in women’s sports, including Ohio, Iowa, and South Dakota.
The bill’s passage comes one day after Utah’s Republican governor, Spencer Cox, vetoed a a similar bill. Indiana’s Republican governor, Eric Holcomb, vetoed similar legislation one day earlier.
In expressing his concerns about the bill to Utah Senate president Stuart Adams and House speaker Brad Wilson, Cox noted that just four students out of around 75,000 school athletes in Utah are transgender.
“Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships,” Cox wrote.
The governor wrote that “all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection” can reduce chances that the children in question will experience suicidal ideation.
“If a veto override occurs, I hope we can work to find ways to show these four kids that we love them and they have a place in our state,” Cox added.
Holcomb explained his own veto in a letter, writing that “not a single case of a male seeking to participate on a female team has completed the process established by” the Indiana High School Athletics Association under its “now decade-old policy.”
Both governors raised concerns that their state’s respective bill could face legal challenges.
Many Republican legislators have sought to preserve fairness in women’s sports, particularly as a transgender UPenn swimmer garnered extensive media attention this season for dominating on the women’s swim circuit despite being biologically male. The swimmer, Lia Thomas, ultimately won the women’s NCAA 500-yard freestyle last week and tied for fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle. Thomas came up short in the 100-yard freestyle, taking eighth place.