Mississippi has become the first U.S. state in 2021 to pass legislation banning transgender girls from sports with Governor Tate Reeves’ signing of the so-called “Mississippi Fairness Act”, SB 2356 on March 11, 2021.
Neither Reeves nor the bill’s sponsor could name a trans athlete in the state of Mississippi but nonetheless defended the exclusion of that minority in the name of “fairness”. Gov Reeves blamed his bigotry on President Biden’s inauguration day Order which aligned his Administrations’s policy with federal law.
Mississippi will as of June 1, 2021, require any public school and university that is a member of the Mississippi High School Activities Association and the NCAA, among other associations, to designate their athletic teams as male, female, or co-ed and restrict transgender girl athletes from joining girl’s and women’s teams.
Two days prior on March 8, 2021, President Biden signed an order directing the Department of Education and the Attorney General to review all existing regulations and policies within 100 days to ensure that they comply with Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
On March 10, 2021, more than 500 National Collegiate Athletic Association student-athletes sent a letter to the NCAA Board of Governors calling for the institution to uphold its nondiscrimination policy and publicly refuse to host championships in states with bans against trans athletes.
The letter to the NCAA asks the board to uphold the organization’s nondiscrimination policy, citing the decision to move championships out of North Carolina in 2016 in response to House Bill 2, which legislated transgender use of public restrooms.
“We call upon you to ensure that the NCAA lives up to the guidelines and standards that they claim to uphold by making a firm statement that you will uphold the NCAA Anti-Discrimination Policy and only operate championships and events in states that promote an inclusive atmosphere,” the letter says.
The NCAA issued a statement to The Associated Press saying it continues to monitor legislation that affects transgender athletes.
“The NCAA believes in fair and respectful student-athlete participation at all levels of sport. The Association’s transgender student-athlete participation policy and other diversity policies are designed to facilitate and support inclusion,” the statement said. “The NCAA believes diversity and inclusion improve the learning environment and it encourages its member colleges and universities to support the well-being of all student-athletes.”
“The Mississippi Fairness Act is deeply unfair to children who simply want to participate in sports alongside their peers,” said Anne Lieberman, Director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally. “When transgender girls are included in sports, participation rates for girls are stronger, and all children are able to benefit from the teamwork, discipline and lifelong friendships sport brings. And when lawmakers pass bills like this one, it not only has devastating mental and physical effects on transgender youth who simply want to be who they are and play the sport they love — it also hurts their friends and teammates and goes against the values of inclusion that make teams their best.
“Mississippi is no longer a safe place for athletic competitions or events. We are committed to fighting for the right of every LGBTQI+ athlete to be safe, welcome, and included at all levels of sport, and we are fighting to have this discriminatory bill overturned.”
“Our message to all state legislature with bills attacking trans youth is this: you have a choice to create safe, welcoming environments for all of your constituents, or to choose hate and division. Please stand on the right side of history,” said Lieberman.”