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Arkansas Gov Signs Law to Block Transgender Athletes from Women's Sports

In this March 23, 2020 file photo, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, right, speaks during a news conference in Little Rock, Ark. (Staton Breidenthal/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a law Thursday banning transgender individuals who identify as female from competing in women and girls school sports teams, making the state the second to approve such a restriction so far this year.

Hutchinson said he studied the measure before signing it into law, as a fan of women's sports.

"Today, I have signed into law SB354 called the 'Fairness in Women's Sports Act'. I have studied the law and heard from hundreds of constituents on this issue. I signed the law as a fan of women's sports from basketball to soccer and including many others in which women compete successfully," the Republican governor said in a statement. 

"This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women's competition. As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law. This will help promote and maintain fairness in women's sporting events," Hutchinson continued.  

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As CBN News has reported, Republicans in 29 state legislatures have been pushing for similar bans this year. Mississippi passed a law earlier this month banning transgender athletes from participating in women's sports, contending that athletes born with male DNA and a male physique have an unfair advantage over athletes born with female DNA. Mississippi became the first state this year to enact such a restriction. Senate Bill 2536 is set to become law July 1, although a legal challenge is possible. 

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem had initially said she would sign similar legislation sent to her but has since pushed for changing it to exclude college sports. Arkansas' law covers K-12 as well as collegiate sports.

In 2020, Idaho enacted a law curtailing transgender students' sports participation, but that measure is blocked by a court ruling as a lawsuit plays out. 

Meanwhile, North Carolina Republican lawmakers introduced a bill on Monday that would bar transgender students in middle and high schools and colleges from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity, according to NBC News. The proposed measure is similar to the Fairness and Women's Sports Act, which was passed in Idaho.

Opponents have not said whether they plan legal action to block Arkansas' ban.

If it isn't blocked by a legal challenge, Arkansas' law would take effect this summer.  

Emilie Kao, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, said, "Arkansas should be commended for standing up to a radical LGBT lobby to protect the fairness in women's and girls' sports. Too many state lawmakers have caved to these special interests and forced women and girls to unfairly compete with boys and men, who have obvious and significant physical advantages. It's encouraging that lawmakers in 29 states have introduced bills that protect women's and girls' sports."

"Every person should be treated with dignity and respect, and no one should be unjustly discriminated against. This includes girls and women who shouldn't be forced to compete against males and who should have privacy and safety in single-sex facilities," Kao said.

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