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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Attacks Trans Athletes

Gage Skidmore via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In Washington, a handful of legislators are preparing to say goodbye to public life in the lame duck session of Congress.

Some will make farewell speeches. Others will attempt to assist constituents one last time.

Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is approaching her swan song after four terms by taking a swipe at transgender athletes.

Gabbard, who made a “blink and you’ll miss it” run for president as a Democrat this year, is co-sponsoring a bill that would require that Title IX compliance be based on a person’s biological sex.

Specifically, the bill, which is co-sponsored by an Oklahoma Republican, would maintain that adherence to Title IX, the law that bars sex-based discrimination at schools that receive federal funding, would be determined by a person’s gender status as determined at birth by a physician.

Though Title IX’s grip cuts across a wide swath of the educational landscape, its broadest and most visible application is in athletics.

The nearly 40-year-old addition to the Education Amendments has served to level the playing field between young men and women, making sure both are equally funded.

In a statement to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Gabbard couched her sponsorship of the bill in terms of providing equality for women, saying “Given the average difference in abilities conferred by biological sex, this bill would clarify Title IX protections for female athletes is based on biological sex.”

In other words, Gabbard believes that transgender athletes who were born as men, but currently identify as women have abilities that give them an advantage, one that should be protected and even legislated against.

A similar approach was taken on a state level in Idaho, where in March, Gov. Brad Little signed into law a measure that bars transgender athletes who identify as female from playing on female teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities.

The U.S. Department of Justice backed the Idaho law, which came with the support of a group called Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that identifies itself as Christian.

However, in August, a federal judge overturned the law, saying the state’s interest in banning transgender athletes was “invalid.”

Meanwhile, the federal Department of Education has threatened to yank some funding from Connecticut schools, which permit transgender athletes to participate. That dispute is still to be resolved, though it’s likely that with a change of presidential administration, the executive branch’s interest will disappear.

And that’s where Gabbard comes in. Her bill would codify a transgender ban on a federal level, though it is almost certain not to pass a Democratic-controlled House.

And, if by some miracle, it did make its way off Capitol Hill, it would surely be vetoed by President Joe Biden, who has enjoyed consistent support from the LGBTQ community and who is credited into talking then President Barack Obama into signing on to backing same sex marriage.

So why do this? Maybe Tulsi Gabbard, who has a track record of opposing transgender issues, truly believes that gender reassignment is a bunch of hokum?

Then she should tell young women struggling to find acceptance in the athletic realm that they’re wrong. Better yet, she should make a farewell speech. Those words won’t hurt anyone.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

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Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.