On Thursday, the GOP-controlled House passed a bill that would place a ban on transgender athletes participating in female sports. The bill was approved in a 219-203 vote, falling strictly along party lines, with the support of all four of Utah’s congressmen.

HR734, the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023, prohibits individuals whose biological sex at birth was male from participating in school athletic programs designated for women or girls.

If the Republican bill becomes law it would designate transgender participation in women’s sports to be a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

But it has little chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate or getting past the White House. President Joe Biden proposed a federal rule change earlier this month that would restrict schools from instituting a blanket ban on transgender student-athletes.

Some compromise might be possible, since Biden’s proposed rule would allow for policies that allow some bans based on “sex-related criteria” in order to achieve aims like “fairness in competition,” the rule says.

Both the GOP’s bill and Biden’s proposed rule change would change the interpretation and implementation of Title IX.

Parents Bill of Rights passes House, Rep. Owens says it would allow parents to be heard in schools
Biden’s proposed policy would allow some restrictions on transgender student-athletes

Title IX is meant to prohibit sex discrimination in sports in nearly every high school and college athletic program in the country. Over the decades, one of the impacts of Title IX was an increase in funding for women’s sports.

“Unfortunately, (Title IX’s) life changing opportunities afforded to generations of women and girls are under assault today,” Utah’s 4th District Rep. Burgess Owens said in a speech on the House floor Wednesday. “We cannot sit back and watch biological males rob biological women of equal athletic opportunities.”

Republicans across the country have spoken against the inclusion of transgender women in female designated athletic events. Transgender athlete Lia Thomas won the NCAA title for the women’s 500-yard freestyle swimming championship in 2022.

Some Republicans argue that female athletes are at a physical disadvantage against transgender women. A sponsor of the bill, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., said the “integrity of women’s sports must be protected,” after his constituent, Emma Weyant, finished second to Thomas at the NCAA swimming championship.

Over 20 states have passed bans on transgender athletes participating in grade school or college sports, including Utah, where the state Legislature voted to override Gov. Spencer Cox’s veto last year. But implementation of the state law was halted by a temporary court order after a lawsuit was filed.

Meanwhile, some Democrats argue it is wrong to exclude transgender children and teens from engaging in sports. “Transgender children simply want to live, make friends and belong,” Democratic House Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said in a tweet. “Instead they face bullying by Extreme MAGA Republicans in Congress.”

However, Owens said doing so puts the “feelings of boys and men above fairness.”

Why Utah wants to dismiss transgender girls' lawsuit over school sports ban
Utah Legislature overrides governor’s veto of transgender sports ban

The third-ranking Republican in the House, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said in a press conference that sports help teach women valuable lessons they then use to become leaders. “To have that opportunity to learn leadership, to learn discipline, to learn teamwork is so, so important,” she said. “This is about protecting women’s sports now and into the future.”

Owens said he believes allowing biological men to compete in women’s sports “erodes” progress made through Title IX.

“It undermines our cherished American values of meritocracy, hard work and equality,” he said, calling it a “common sense” bill to preserve the rights of women.