House panel rejects restrictions on female team sports

Beth and Stephen Scaer hold signs supporting legislation that would prevent those born as boys from ever competing on female sports teams. Critics said the measure would discriminate against transgender athletes.

CONCORD — Supporters and opponents packed a House meeting Wednesday as a committee rejected legislation seeking to prevent students born as male from competing on girls’ or women’s sports teams.

State Rep. Stephen Woodcock, D-Center Conway, said the bill (HB 1251) discriminated against transgender athletes.

“This really is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is not about transgender youngsters playing on another gender team,” Woodcock said. “This is about not allowing transgender youth to participate.”

State Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro, said the legislation was intended to embrace Title IX, which bans bias in sports based on gender.

“This is not a discriminatory bill at all,” Cordelli said. “This is a bill that protects Title IX.”

House Education Committee Chairman Mel Myler, D-Contoocook, said he rarely speaks on bills before a committee vote.

He said he was moved to do so after Lane Joslin, a 15-year-old transgender teen, testified last month about her love for playing soccer on a prep school team.

“We have not heard of any problems with transgender students playing sports in this state,” Myler said.

“She should not be denied the right to participate in a sport that she loves.”

The House panel voted, 13-6, to recommend killing the bill. The full House of Representatives will take it up next month.

The bill would prevent transgender girls from competing in primary, secondary or college sports teams for women. The bill would still let transgender males try out for any boys’ team.

The bill says that if a student’s sex is disputed, the student may present a statement signed by a doctor that shows the student’s sex is based on the student’s reproductive anatomy, a naturally occurring level of testosterone and an analysis of the student’s chromosomes.

In the past two years, state lawmakers have adopted laws protecting the rights of transgender individuals.

In 2018, lawmakers passed legislation outlawing discrimination in housing, employment and accommodations based on gender identity.

Last year, Gov. Chris Sununu signed a second law that banned discrimination based on gender identity in public schools.

Outside the committee room, foes and supporters held competing signs about the bill.

“We are relieved that the committee has made this recommendation,” said Palana Belken, a lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, which opposed the bill.

“A number of states are taking up this legislation, and thankfully most of them are voting it down or blocking it from being taken up,” Belken said.

Opponent Stephen Scaer, of Nashua, had expected to be on the losing end.

“We have allowed the left to define the language, to change the definition of what it means to be a woman and to say it’s discrimination to allow only girls to compete in their own sports,” Scaer said.

“To me, discrimination in this case is a good thing.”

New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association regulations leave it up to each school board to decide eligibility for transgender students. Athletes must apply at least two months before the sport season begins.