Ernst speaks against transgender athletes in women’s sports as Title IX hits year 50

By: - June 22, 2023 5:48 pm

Riley Gaines was one of three former student athletes to speak against allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports during a news conference in Washington, D.C. Thursday, June 22. (Photo via the Independent Women’s Network livestream)

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst spoke out Thursday in opposition to proposed rule change to Title IX that would prohibit full bans on transgender students from participating on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Ernst and Rep. Claudia Tenney, a New York Republican, have introduced a resolution to declare the week of June 23 as “National Women’s Sports Week” in honor of Title IX.

This week marks 50 years since the law’s enactment. In recognizing the achievements of women athletes, Ernst also said women’s sports are under attack by the White House due to the Biden administration’s proposed changes to Title IX.

“We cannot and will not allow our daughters to be erased,” Ernst said in a statement. “Doors that were opened over 50 years ago are being slammed in the faces of girls across the country because of the progressive left’s radical gender ideology.”

One of the changes, proposed by the Biden administration in April, prohibits full bans of transgender student athletes’ participation in sports, but allows rules that prohibit transgender students from competing in certain competitive high school and college sports, as well as allowing specific bans that are based on age and the sport.

Athletes Riley Gaines, Paula Scanlan, and Payton McNabb held a press conference in Washington, D.C., Thursday opposing the measure, and asking lawmakers to support Ernst and Tenney’s resolution. McNabb, a former high school volleyball player, spoke about her experience sustaining a concussion and neck injury when a transgender volleyball player spiked a ball that hit her face.

McNabb said her injury could have been prevented by not allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports.

“I was always very aware of the possibility of injury when playing,” McNabb said. “But my experience on the court that day was different … This incident was 100% avoidable if my rival female athletes had not been excluded on the basis of being inclusive.”

Ernst was not able to attend the news conference, but released a video message in support of the resolution. She also addressed the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, passed by the U.S. House along party lines in April. While it is unlikely to be heard in the Democratic-led Senate, the White House said Biden would veto the legislation that seeks to cut federal funding from schools and colleges that allow transgender student athletes to participate in women’s sports and athletic events.

“Every time a girl steps onto the mat, court, field or track, she should know she has every opportunity to compete and win,” Ernst said in the video. “We must protect women’s sports.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation in 2022 prohibiting transgender women athletes from participating in women’s sports teams at K-12 schools and colleges that are members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) or the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

In 2023, Reynolds signed into law a measure prohibiting transgender youth from using school bathrooms and locker rooms not consistent with their gender assigned at birth, in addition to a ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

Democrats say such measures prohibiting transgender students from participating in sports is a form of discrimination. The discrimination that transgender youth face is the reason these students should be protected under Title IX, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told House lawmakers in May.

“There are students right now that are hurting because elected officials have chosen to use their platform to further ostracize them,” Cardona said.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.