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Defend Their Platform: SLB for April 2021

Lots of activity, in not much time. Let us begin.

1.) State’s Fights.
Because it’s where all the activity is, let’s highlight the veto fight.
HB 1217
Passed House 24FEB
Passed Senate 08MAR
Vetoed “for style and form” 29MAR
Veto override failed that day.

This one is pretty close to dead. According to a story in the Grand Rapids Herald, there isn’t much “appetite” to take up the bill again in the Senate. South Dakota’s Republican Governor, Kristi Noem, did release two executive orders on the subject, but neither of them have much teeth behind them.

But the odds of this bill passing any time this year have crashed.

Also, despite the fact that it’s doomed to fail, let’s talk about a newcomer to the SLB. Please welcome:
HB 972
Introduced 05APR

The bill is, as mentioned, doomed to a veto by the Governor, but it is worth bringing up.

Here’s where everything else stands:


ARIZONA: Senate Bill 1637
IOWA: HF 184, HF 334
KENTUCKY: HB 471, SB 106
MINESSOTA: SF 96, HF 352, HF 350
SOUTH CAROLINA: H3477, H4153, S0531
TEXAS: HB 1458

GEORGIA: HB 276, HB 372, SB 266 (Sine Die. The Session is over)
UTAH: HB 302 (Session over)

In Motion:
House Bill 391:
Passed House 18MAR
Read in Senate 01APR

SB 208
Passed Senate 17MAR
Introduced in the House 19MAR

HB 112
Bouncing between the chambers. Currently in the Senate as of 01APR.

HB 1298
Passed House 11FEB
Amended version pasted Senate 29MAR
Currently in Committee between the two chambers.

2.) Congress Equality Act.
According to the Library of Congress’ official database, the House version of the Equality Act has been motionless since it passed in February, and the Senate version has only been introduced.

3.) Final thoughts.
Nobody ever said that this was going to move fast.
Nobody ever said that this was going to be easy.

We’ve seen a remarkable backlash in South Dakota (which, admittedly, proved to be quite successful) against these bills. The outrage pressure mirrors that which Georgia is seeing in regards to the election integrity bill.

Much like in Georgia, the controversy is predicated purely in politics, not in the substance of the bills. (Governor Kemp, to his immense credit, has been on a media tour countering what he calls “disinformation.”) Kemp, however does not seem keen to bow to any sort of pressure.

South Dakota, however, is a case study in how the opposition will respond, and where they will apply pressure in order to kill bans on men participating in women’s sports.

The science is clear, as are the consequences.
It’s the pressure that will be the real issue.
It is, truthfully, the only tactic the opposition has in fight to defend their platform.

Defend Their Platform: State Legislative Brief [March 2021]

A core part of Midnight Iron’s coverage of the debate over transgender women participating in women’s sport will be the State Legislative Brief. Using the work of Save Women’s Sports as a baseline, we will run though every known bill in the various State legislatures, and close with a quick word on the Federal Equality Act.

The first episode of the SLB will be a state-by-state rundown of current bills. Future episodes will organize the bills into categories; specifically which states have moved forward, which ones haven’t, and which states’ bills are dead for the session. All bills will contain hyperlinks to the State Legislature’s official database, because we believe in primary sources around here.

With that, let us begin. This is the State Legislative Brief for March 2021.

1.) State’s Fights. First off, a check on state-level bills, with help from Save Women’s Sports.

House Bill 391

This one appears to have moved to the full House after a favorable vote from the Education committee.

Senate Bill 1637 Motionless. Introduced 01FEB.

Senate Joint Resolution 16 Moving everywhere. Withdrawn from a committee to be amended, and the ammended version is currently with the Senate’s Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs. (In case you’re wondering, it’s because the Resolution involves any athletic teams sponsored by a public school.)

Senate Bill 354: Referred to Education Committee. Both this and SJR16 deal with barring transgender women (which is to say, biological men) from participating in women’s sport. But between the two, this one seems to include private schools as well. (Section 2: “”School” includes a private educational institution whose interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic teams or sports compete against a public school.”)

Senate Bill 324: Referred to the Joint Committee on Judiciary. This bill provides civil immunity for any athletic organization that require a person to compete in on a team that “matches the gender identity on his or her birth certificate.” In other words, it is not a full ban on anything, but it says that an organization that decides not to allow men in the women’s division (or vice versa) cannot be sued for it.

House Bill 276: Currently in the Education Committee. This bill appears to be a ban on allowing anybody who is male competing in “an athletic program that is designated for females.” This would extend to public and private schools, plus the University System of Georgia (think UGA, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, etc.).

House Bill 372: Also with the House Education Committee. A bill to legally define “gender” among other things.

Senate Bill 266: Senate Education and Youth Committee. More or less the Senate’s take on HB276.

By the way, a quirk in the Georgia system is something called Crossover Day. As Georgia is a part-time legislature, there comes a point, midway through the session, where both chambers focus on bills that made it through the other body. Put more bluntly, on 08MAR, any bill that started in one chamber and was never voted out is declared dead for the session. For any of these bills to succeed, they need to move now.

House Bill 1304: Referred to Education Committee. Description is pleasingly straightforward: “Prohibits biologically born males from competing in any athletic program offered by a public high school that is designated for women or girls.”

House File 184: Introduced, referred to Education. A bill whose rough-to-read cover file suggests that it is similar to the Hawaii bill.

House File 334:: Introduced. Referred to Education. These appear to be almost identical.

Senate Bill 208: In Committee on Education, hearing 23FEB. This bill ensures that the women’s divisions in public schools “only include members who are biologically female.”

Senate Bill 106: Introduced. Requires student athletic events to be divided by biological sex, “prohibit designated agencies from entertaining complaints or investigations of policies; create a cause of action against a school that violates these provisions,” and many, many other things. This is a VERY comprehensive bill.

House Bill 471: Introduced. The House version of SB106.

SF 96: Introduced, referred to Education and Finance Policy Committee. Labeled as “high school league member public schools separate teams provision violation clarification.”

HF 352 Introduced, sent to Education Policy Committee. The description reads “female student sport team participation restricted to the female sex.”

HF 350: Introduced, sent to Education Policy Committee. “Student participation in athletic teams restricted.” This one seems to be a slightly more restrictive version of HF 352.

Senate Bill 2536: Passed out of the Seante, referred to House Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency Committee.

Also, note the use of Comic Sans. You can find quirky stuff in any State.

Just try and stay with me on this. There’s a LOT to go over.
Tackling the House bills, in numerical order.

House Joint Resolution 53 and House Joint Resolution 56. 53 had a hearing 01MAR, 56 did not. They appear to be identical.

House Bill 1045 and House Bill 1077: Referred to Emerging Issues Committee. Establishes “guidelines” for public school athletic competitions, organized by biological sex.

Both appear identical.

Senate Bill 503: First Reading. Requires that “no athletic team or sport designated for females, women, or girls shall be open to students of the male sex, as assigned at birth,” and that no government agency can take action against a school that keeps to separate divisions for men’s and women’s sport.

House Bill 112: Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee. “Require interscholastic athletes to participate under sex assigned at birth.”

House Bill 198: Referred to Senate Education Committee. Bars men from being in all-female athletics.

House Bill 304: Referred to House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee. Requires schools to “prohibit male participation on female athletic teams; prohibiting adverse action against schools complying with the Women’s Sports Protection Act.”

House Bill 1298: With the House Human Services Committee. The bill aims for “Athletic events exclusively for males or exclusively for females.”

House Bill 61: Refer to Primary and Secondary Education Committee. Requires schools, and both public and private colleges to designate separate teams for each sex.

Senate Bill 331: Referred to Senate Education Committee.

House Bill 3477: Referred to Judiciary Committee: The House version of the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” alongside Senate Bill 531, which is the Senate version.

House Bill 1217: Passed the House, scheduled for hearing 03MAR in the Senate. The title is “promote continued fairness in women’s sports.”

House Bill 3, Senate Bill 228: Senate Bill 228 passed, and was sent to the House. The House version appears to have been referred to the Calendar and Rules Committee.

House Bill 1458: Filed.

House Bill 302: Passed House, currently with the Rules Committee.

House Bill 2734 and House Bill 2141: Both referred to House Education committee.

2.) Congress. All of that is happening against the backdrop of the federal Equality Act, which was basically in stasis until the start of the post-2020 election Congress. That bill passed the House on 25FEB, and is listed on Congress’ official database as with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Three Republicans joined Democrats in getting the bill through the House, though its future in the Senate remains unclear.

3.) Stil ahead: Taking a broader look at the legal issues, we have the USAPL/Gender Justice lawsuit, as well as the lawsuit in Connecticut being spear-headed by the group Alliance Defending Freedom.

There is no guarantee that all, or even most, of these bills will pass. The purpose of this monthly update is simply to track both the State- and Federal-level bills in regards to women’s sport. The SLB is a regular checkpoint in the fight to defend their platform.

Defend Their Platform: The Story So Far

Before we get much further into the discussion on transgender participation in sport, it’s worth highlighting one of the main threads of the last few years. Namely, the matter of transgender women (which is to say, biological men) in the women’s division of USA Powerlifting. It seems odd to consider the adage “men are physically stronger than men” being controversial in a sport with decades of meet results showing the clear differences, but such is the case here.

What follows is a timeline stretching back to 2019, when the USAL initially posted their “Transgender Participation Policy” and the firestorm that kicked up.

Feb 19, 2019 — USAPL Transgender Participation Policy hits Barbend. Barbend is a news service dedicated to covering the strength sports. Namely weightlifting, powerlifting, crossfit, strongman, and bodybuilding. — In addition to the policy, USAPL released an FAQ, targeting criticisms of the policy, and specifically the loaded use of the term “discrimination” in Outsports and other outlets who, to put it charitably, disagreed with the policy.

Feb 21, 2019 — At a meet in Minnesota (which is practically the flashpoint of our study tonight), competitors protested the policy by “timing out” their attempts, and occasionally holding flags reading “share the platform.” People such as JayCee Cooper spun it as a brave protest. ….video from the meet itself, however, paints a more aggressive picture. One that, frankly, is humiliating to athletes who weren’t interested in the protest. — UK-based rapper “identifies as female” to smash female weightlifting records. Not much to say tghere.

May 9, 2019 — VICE News piece on transgender powerlifter JayCee Cooper. The highlight of this piece is when the reporter asks “why should you be allowed to compete,” to which Cooper responds, “why not.” (Why not, of course, being the fact that men would sail to victory in the women’s division.)

May 9, 2019 — This is something we are going to come back to again, and again. For almost an hour, the chairman of USAPL’s Therapeutic Use Exemption committee, Dr. Kristopher Hunt, laid out a ton of evidence on why the USAPL’s policy was quite fair, and how men participating in the women’s division would leave women pretty much without any hope of competing. Cooper and another transgender lifter, Rebecca Fox, were present to speak for a proposal to essentially force the issue. Their opening argument was complete with barely veiled legal threats that we’ll get to later. — Proposal went nowhere, but Maile and others DID get a ton of blowback from transgender activists/media nets.

July 1, 2019 – Interview with Dr. Hunt — Human interest story on why the fairness argument isn’t relevant. This is a true piece of work, if we’re honest.

October 30, 2019 — USAPL, Gender Justice “agree to talks.”

October 31, 2019 — Outsports interviews Maile.

December 21, 2020 — USAPL announces new competitive categories, including the gender-neutral MX division. The MX division is essentially a free-for-all where people can compete according to their “gender identity.” The USAPL’s anti-doping rules still very much apply.

January 5, 2021 — Study suggests “transgender women maintain an athletic advantage” years after therapy.

January 13, 2021 — Cooper sues USA Powerlifting in MN Civil Court.

January 18, 2021 — Montana bill. (This stuff will be taken care of in a future update.)

January 19, 2021 — Save Women’s Sports response to USAPL/Cooper lawsuit.

January 21, 2021 — “On Day One, Biden Destroys Women’s Sports With Anti-Science Executive Order.” The EO expanded Title IX to include gender identity. This links directly to athletics at the high school/collegiate level.

January 22, 2021 — “Joe Biden’s gender discrimination order offers hope for young trans athletes.” This is an….interesting article out of the Guardian, which pays next-to-no mind to biological females who are convinced (and rightfully so), that their ability to compete is greatly hindered by the EO.

January 26, 2021: — Save Women’s Sports’ Beth Stelzer appears on FOX News’ America Reports to discuss Biden’s Executive Order.

If this timeline feels completely unfinished, that’s largely because it is. This is just the start of the issue of transgender participation in women’s sport being played out in the courts, and in the legislatures (both State-level and in Congress).

If nothing else, this at least lays out the foundation, and frankly the rather tenuous state of women’s sport at present. While I reject the idea that the Biden EO is the one-shot death of women’s sport (this series would have no reason to exist, otherwise), I am not so naive as to believe it will not damage women’s sport for several years if fully implemented.

But, again, we have multiple bills in various states, we have (to my count) three separate bills in Congress which are bi-partisan. While there are vastly more Republicans than Democrats that support the idea of barring men from women’s sport, the issue has some fairly big names on both sides of the aisle; namely Democrat Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and former SC governor Nikii Haley.

The executive order from President Biden is a problem, but it is not the end of the fight. There is far too much evidence to the contrary, and there are far too many reasons to continue the fight to Defend Their Platform.

Defend Their Platform: Introduction

In 2019, I attended USA Powerlifting’s National Governing Board meeting (from here on, NGB). A major topic of that meeting had been a proposal to essentially allow male-to-female transgender lifters to compete in the women’s division, complete with permitting the use of hormone therapy.

A few months prior to the NGB, USAPL had released its Transgender Participation Policy, that effectively barred men from competing in the women’s division. The reasons for this included the use of “testosterone and other androgens, commonly used to transition from female to male,” which are banned from the federation, regardless of reasons. The secondary reason was, of course, the physiological differences between men and women, and the competitive advantage the former would have over the latter.

The keynote, for lack of a better term, of the NGB was delivered by the chairman of USAPL’s Therapeutic Use Exemption Committee, Dr. Kristopher Hunt. In roughly an hour (which was posted online alongside a Q&A that we will get to later), Dr. Hunt laid out the reasons for preventing men from compete in the women’s division, much of which was mentioned above. His presentation was followed by two people who had brought the transgender proposal to the NGB, JayCee Cooper and Rebecca Fox. Cooper and Fox, both powerlifters, took questions from the attendees and, frankly, made more than a few barely-veiled legal threats.

Since then, Cooper has sued USAPL in court in Minnesota, various states have decided to try their own laws to protect women’s sport, and a Presidential administration has taken office that has a decidedly dim view of keeping transgender men out of women’s sport.

It is in this context that Midnight Iron launches its coverage of transgender participation in the sport of powerlifting, and by association women’s sport in general.

Tonight will be the first in the series, laying out my own views on the subject. After this, we will quickly recap the timeline of USA Powerlifting’s Transgender Participation Policy.

1a.) The Opener. It is worth stating, explicitly, what my views are, and where I intend to come from on this story.

Put bluntly, I have been quite bitter about the events of the NGB since they concluded. To my mind, the proposal was written in such a way that it was intended to fail, thus opening USAPL up to pages and pages of breathless criticism from Outsports and other organizations. Dr. Hunt’s well thought-out, science-based approach was derided as “anti-trans rhetoric,” among other, more colorful language.

The concept that men and women have always had physiological differences, has never been in question. The difference in muscle mass, bone density, and other physical attributes were just taken as read. Indeed, if one looks at the results of virtually any powerlifting meet, and compares those in similar weight classes, the differences are obvious.

But that does not seem to matter to activists. Shortly after the NGB, VICE News aired a piece on Cooper and the USAPL “trans ban.” The piece suggests that there is no clear link between “testosterone and sports performance.”

That, particularly in a strength sport, is bogus. If there were no link between testosterone and sports performance, there would be no reason to ban testosterone therapy from the sport wholesale.

But even leaving the science aside for a bit (to the extent that we can), allowing men to compete in women’s sport essentially makes the latter co-ed and dominated by people who are not biological females. This has massive impact across the sporting world, from professional competition, down to the high school level.

I have no interest in entertaining the idea that allowing men to compete in women’s sport will not devastate the latter, even those who support the idea don’t want to deny that simple fact.

1b.) “Share The Platform.” In powerlifting, the slogan from trans advocates has been to “share the platform,” implying that USAPL’s prevention of biological males competing in the women’s division is somehow blocking people from the platform entirely. However, “sharing” implies an equal ground, and the idea of men competing in women’s sport is anything but. It is true that the hormones used in transition therapy are banned, and that they have never been exempted. Powerlifting is a strength sport, and hormone therapy has a direct impact on strength.

In a drug-tested organization, athletes are better served when they compete against others of the same biological sex. The playing field is as level as it can be.

Powerlifting is a unique sport, and anybody who has worked backstage can see that. People from various teams working through warmups together, platform managers working to keep everyone on time and ready for their attempts, and a blend of competition and teamwork that is unlike any other sport.

The simple fact is that we, as powerlifters, do share the platform. I personally have managed a platform backstage with all types of people. But, perhaps more important than sharing the platform, is defending the right of competitors to a fair game.

In a drug-tested federation, men have next-to-nothing to fear about women competing in the men’s division. The physical differences, and the physiological advantages that have been known for years aren’t surmountable without testosterone therapy. The concept of combining sexes has not and never will be referred to as “the end of men’s sport.”

But for women? The reverse is not true. Those physiological differences that make the men’s division a non-issue will devastate the women’s division.

We must, and we do share the platform. However, we owe it to each other as competitors, and frankly to women in particular, to defend its integrity.

It is with that goal in mind that this series will cover the transgender case. Male athletes will be largely unaffected by women entering the men’s division (indeed, next to nobody is even entertaining such a thing out of sheer futility). The position entertained, therefore, is the definition of the term “privileged.” Men are not impacted by the transgender case in any significant way.

However, since the reverse is not true, there is an obligation to ensure that the same fair play that occurs in the men’s division also occurs in the women’s division. It is that mission from which this series will take its name. Share the platform, certainly; and Defend Their Platform.