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Transgender athlete bill stalls in committee

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

A bill seeking to prohibit transgender high school athletes from competing in sports that match their gender identity will not be considered this year.

Senate Bill 191 went before the Senate Education Committee Thursday, but failed to clear that committee.

The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Bryant Richardson (R-Seaford), would require high school athletes to compete based on their biological sex assigned at birth.

Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association rules currently allow transgender students to play on the sports team that matches their gender identity.

During Thursday’s committee meeting, Richardson was adamant the bill is not based on transphobia, but instead on protecting female athletes from being outperformed or injured by physically superior competitors.

“I want you to think about the lost opportunities for girls to receive recognition, awards and even scholarships,” Richardson said. “[...] It’s a good bill. It’s designed to protect girls’ sports.”

The bill drew support from several community members along with State Sen. Eric Buckson (R-Dover South), a member of the Senate Education committee.

Buckson also denied allegations that SB191 is rooted in transphobia, echoing Richardson’s comments about safety and adding that the wording of the bill is intentionally moderate.

“It deliberately leaves out what we’ll call women or collegiate athletes or other,” Buckson said. “Why? Because you want to focus on high school – the child. That’s what it does, and I think that’s very fair.”

Many Democrats on the committee were absent Thursday, including State Sen. Sarah McBride (D-Wilmington). McBride is running for Delaware’s lone U.S. House seat and if successful, would become the first openly transgender person in Congress.

While the bill did face some opposition from members of the public, the only Democrat who openly criticized the bill was State Sen. Tizzy Lockman (D-Wilmington), calling it “discriminatory policy.”