Mat-Su senator introduces bill to bar transgender girls from school sports

A white woman with a turquoise scarf speaks into a microphone frmo a desk.
Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Anchorage, describes education legislation to the Senate Finance Committee in April. Hughes left the Senate majority caucus over the budget. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

A bill introduced in the waning days of this year’s legislative session in Alaska would require schools to designate school-sponsored athletic teams or sports as male, female or co-ed and require participation in a female sport to be based on the participant’s sex assigned at birth.

The bill from Republican Senate Majority Leader Shelley Hughes is the latest of its kind around the country that would bar transgender girls and women from girls and women’s sports. Its prospects this year are unclear, with the session scheduled to end Wednesday. Bills pending at the end of this session are carried over to next year.

Laura Carpenter, executive director of Identity, an Anchorage-based advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said the bill is discriminatory and “horrific.”

“This is not about fairness in women’s sports,” Carpenter said. “This is an anti-transgender bill that does not value trans lives.”

The president of the conservative Alaska Family Council, Jim Minnery, urged support for the bill, calling it a way to ensure that “basic fairness and opportunities for women aren’t sidelined by the demands of radical gender ideologues.”

A request to speak with Hughes was left with the Senate majority press office. Hughes spoke about the issue on the Senate floor last month, when she proposed, but withdrew, an amendment to a pandemic emergency bill that dealt with transgender athletes.

She said she wanted to use “this bully pulpit” to draw attention to an issue that she said she has had “more communication on” this year than the annual check Alaskans receive from the state’s oil-wealth fund, a perennial hot-button.

“Alaskans want Alaskans’ values, American values to be sustained,” she said, noting later her plans to introduce a bill.

The bill, introduced Wednesday, states that public schools or private schools that have teams that compete against public schools must designate school-sponsored athletic teams or sports as a male, men or boys team or sport; a female, women or girls team or sport; or a co-ed team or sport.

It states that a student who participates in a team or sport designated for females, women or girls “must be female, based on the participant’s biological sex.”

A federal appeals court earlier this month heard arguments in a case involving an Idaho law that prohibits transgender students who identify as female from playing on female teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. The law does not apply to men’s teams.