INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Opponents are continuing to ramp up pressure against an Indiana bill that would ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity, arguing that the proposal is unconstitutional, sexist and bigoted.
Critics additionally called out Republican lawmakers for partnering on the bill with the Alliance Defending Freedom, referred to as “a national hate group” by Democrat Sen. J.D. Ford of Indianapolis and representatives from the Human Rights Campaign during a news conference on Tuesday.
ADF strongly rejects the characterization. It is not a hate group but “is among the largest and most effective legal advocacy organizations dedicated to protecting the religious freedom and free speech rights of all Americans,” Jeremy Tedesco, ADF’s senior counsel, said in a letter to The Associated Press.
The nonprofit legal organization that supports conservative Christian causes has provided legal counsel for various efforts to curtail LGBTQ rights and has successfully lobbied for anti-transgender legislation — including bans on transgender athletes — in other states.
“(The ADF) wants to do all they can to make transgender kids afraid of themselves, and forced them to believe that they’re broken. They are being pitted against their neighbors and their communities solely for political purposes,” Ford said. “The supermajority for our General Assembly seem to value extreme culture wars and partnerships with this national hate group over creating a better future for Hoosier families.”
Ford continued that the ADF “has no business” influencing legislation that affects Hoosiers, noting that transgender athlete participation “is not an issue and not a problem that Indiana is facing.”
Legislators in the Senate education committee will weigh the ban on Wednesday after the House advanced the bill in a 66-30 last month, largely along party lines.
Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said last week that it wasn’t clear if GOP senators would advance the bill out of the committee, but acknowledged its support among social conservatives.
The proposal would prohibit students who were born male but identify as female from participating in a sport or on an athletic team that is designated for women or girls. But it wouldn’t prevent students who identify as female or transgender men from playing on men’s sports teams.
Republican Rep. Michelle Davis of Greenwood, who authored the bill, said its purpose is to “maintain fair competition in girls’ sports.”
Former Indiana Republican Rep. Christy Stutzman proposed similar legislation in 2020, although the bill did not advance from the House education committee.
Democrats have maintained that such bills are “discriminatory” and “harmful to kids.” They also contend that the Indiana High School Athletic Association already has a policy that requires transgender girls who want to play sports to show they’ve completed hormone therapy, and that their muscle mass or bone density is typical of other girls the same age.
If the bill passes the Legislature, Indiana could be the 11th Republican-dominated state to adopt such a ban on transgender women or girls. In two of those states — Idaho and West Virginia — the laws have been halted by federal judges. The U.S. Department of Justice has challenged bans in other states, slamming them as violations of federal law.
At least half a dozen other bills were proposed by conservative lawmakers in both chambers of the General Assembly in the current legislative session to further limit rights for transgender Hoosiers.
That included bills which would have prohibited transgender people from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, banning gender changes on birth certificates, and making gender-affirming medical care for minors illegal. All of those measures have died, however.
Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Smith on Twitter.