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Bill to restrict transgender athletes in grades 5-12 heads to New Hampshire governor's desk

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CONCORD, N.H. — A New Hampshire bill that would ban transgender athletes in grades 5-12 from teams that align with their gender identity is headed to the governor's desk.

The Republican-led Senate voted 13-10 along party lines Thursday in favor of a bill that would require schools to designate all teams as either girls, boys or coed, with eligibility determined based on students' birth certificates.

Supporters of the legislation said they wanted to protect girls from being injured by larger and stronger transgender athletes.

"When we talk about fairness and rights, we can't cover every circumstance. And so in a very narrow way that I think to most of us is very clear, biological boys have an advantage over biological girls," said Senate President Jeb Bradley, a Republican from Wolfeboro. "We'll never be able to legislate total fairness. But what we can't do is create rights for one at the expense of another."

How many states limit transgender student-athletes?

At least 20 states have approved a version of a blanket ban on transgender athletes playing on K-12 and collegiate sports teams statewide, but a Biden administration rule to forbid such outright bans is set to take effect this year after multiple delays and much pushback.

The bans also have been challenged in court: Last month, a federal appeals court blocked West Virginia from enforcing its ban, at least when it comes to one eighth grader on a track and field team. An Ohio judge put on hold on law a ban on both girls scholastic sports participation for transgender girls and gender-affirming medical care for minors.

In New Hampshire, the Senate previously passed a bill that would have banned transgender girls from participating on sports teams at both the high school and college levels. But the House defeated it earlier this month.

Why Democrats oppose the bill

Democrats who opposed the bill that passed Thursday said it was based on fear mongering. Sen. Debra Altschiller, a Democrat from Stratham, said there are only five transgender girls in New Hampshire who are athletes.

"Those five girls are not a threat. They are the threatened," she said. "While this gesture of protection may seem valiant, we say no thank you. If you really want to protect girls, protect the marginalized transgender girls."

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has not indicated his position on the bill, and his spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

What is the policy for transgender athletes in Massachusetts schools?

According to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, "A student shall not be excluded from participation on a gender-specific sports team that is consistent with the student's bona fide gender identity."

The MIAA says that it defers to the student and their school to determine their gender classification.

"When a school district submits a roster to the MIAA, it is verifying that it has determined that the students listed on a gender-specific sports team are eligible to participate either based on the gender listed on their official birth certificate or based on their bona fide gender identity and that no students are included on the roster solely for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage in competitive athletics," the MIAA handbook says.

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