State Senators Judy Ward (R-Hollidaysburg) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-Jacobus) offered the measure so that female athletes need not compete against males who, they noted, have “distinct and meaningful physical advantages over women” including greater height, bone density, heart size, and lung size.
Ward said she recognizes that a student may choose to identify with a gender that differs from his or her sex, but clarified that her bill specifically concerns genetic distinctions between males and females.
“This legislation will ensure that all young women in the commonwealth have a fair chance to compete in the sports that they love,” Ward told colleagues in urging the bill’s passage. “Let me be crystal clear: This has nothing to do with someone’s gender or gender identity. This is about biological sex. Sports have never been separated based on gender identity; rather [they have] been separated by biological sex and this legislation ensures that that remains true in the future.”
Transgender students’ participation in scholastic and collegiate sports began receiving acute national attention when University of Pennsylvania student Lia Thomas became the first biological male to win an NCAA Division I national championship – swimming, in Thomas’s case.
Ward and Phillips-Hill have championed their proposed change to Pennsylvania law so that the aim of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is not frustrated by men competing in women’s athletic activities. Title IX, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program, is widely credited with women’s school sports programs thriving over the past several decades.
Lisa Boscola, a Democrat who represents Bethlehem and Easton, was the only member of her party to vote with all Republicans for the bill.
The legislation awaits consideration by the state House of Representatives. The House itself passed a similar measure in April with hardly any Democrats voting in favor. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is widely expected to veto such legislation should it reach his desk.
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