Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a bill on Thursday that would ban transgender student athletes from joining female sports teams, becoming the second state in the U.S. this year to adopt such a law.
"I signed the law as a fan of women's sports from basketball to soccer and including many others in which women compete successfully," Hutchinson 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."
"This will help promote and maintain fairness in women's sporting events," he added.
The law prohibits transgender girls and women from joining a girl's school, intramural or club sport – from elementary to the collegiate level. Supporters of the bill argue transgender girls, because they were born male, have physical advantages than those who were born female.
However, opponents pointed out there's no scientific evidence to prove any such advantage. Critics blasted the new law, saying it harms transgender children.
"This cruel and harmful bill will ban trans girls from playing sports from elementary school all the way through college," the Human Rights Campaign tweeted.
"Governor Hutchinson's eagerness to sign this discriminatory legislation is an affront not just to the transgender kids it is bound to hurt but to all Arkansans who will be impacted by its consequences," the group said.
On Twitter, the ACLU wrote banning trans athletes is "cruel and wrong, but it is also illegal."
It also comes about two weeks after Mississippitransgender athletes from competing on girls or women's sports teams. Mississippi was the this year to enact such a ban, after a federal court blocked an Idaho law last year.
More than 20 states are proposing restrictions on athletics or gender-confirming health care for transgender minors this year. Conservative lawmakers are responding to an executive order by President Joe Biden that bans discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere. Biden signed it January 20, the day he took office.