Pennsylvania Democrat governor Tom Wolf recently vetoed a high-profile bill that would have effectively barred biologically male transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports.
Calling the bill discriminatory against “marginalized youth,” Wolf said, “I have been crystal clear during my time in office that hate has no place in Pennsylvania, especially discrimination against already marginalized youth representing less-than-half of 1 percent of Pennsylvania’s population.” Wolf’s statement followed his veto of the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.”
The governor added that the bill was an “incredibly harmful policy,” and lawmakers who voted for it “should be ashamed of themselves.”
The “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” would have required that athletic teams sponsored by a public school be designated for “females, women or girls” and would not “be open to students of the male sex.” They also must “be expressly designated” based on biological sex.
In both chambers of Pennsylvania’s legislature, Republicans hold a majority and have pledged to continue pressing the issue. A handful of Democrats also broke with the governor and supported the legislation.
Republicans promise to keep fighting
Republican State Representative Stephanie Borowicz, a former student-athlete, criticized Wolf and promised to continue pushing forward.
“Sadly, Gov. Wolf predictably vetoed the ‘Fairness in Women Sports Act,’ which shows his disregard for women athletes and the tremendous strides we have made on scholastic athletes during the past 50 years,” said Borowicz. “We will never stop fighting, and in the end, we will win this battle to keep competitive women’s sports fair and exclusively female.”
Current Republican nominee for governor and current State Senator Doug Mastriano was one of the sponsors of the Senate’s version of the legislation and has pledged to act if he wins in November.
“As governor, I will sign it into law,” said Mastriano. He continued, quoting former President John Adams, “Facts are stubborn things.”
“These biological facts are indisputable, and the discrepancies between the two sexes had been very apparent in athletic competition,” said Mastriano. He also stated that males have a “clear unfair advantage” over competing females.
In a joint statement, the bill’s chief sponsor, State Representative Barb Gleim, Borowicz, and others claimed Governor Wolf’s veto ignores female athletic progress and undermines the federal Title IX protections against sex-based discrimination.
Lone State Senate Democrat Lisa Boscola crossed the aisle to support the bill. Saying she understands the high emotions on both sides, Boscola issued a statement saying, “I empathize with the individual in transition, a person who’s trying to come to grips with who they are and seeing sports as an opportunity to be included.”
She continued, “I also feel for the female athlete that trains and competes and views the field as unfair when faced against competing with a transgender athlete.”
Pennsylvania was at the center of the debate after the athletic success of a transgender swimmer from the University of Pennsylvania, Lia Thomas. Thomas set the program record in a 500-yard freestyle event in May.
Some female athletes have also spoken out against Thomas’ participation in women’s events instead of men’s. Riley Gaines, a University of Kentucky swimmer, said she believes many female athletes also don’t think transgender individuals should be allowed to compete against biological females.
“I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I am almost certain I’m speaking for a large majority of female athletes. This is not ok, and it’s not fair.”
The governing body for international swimming, FINA, recently approved new policies for transgender swimmers. The policies only allow swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 to compete in women’s events. Members of FINA voted 71.5% in favor of the new guidelines.
The Utah legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto to enact a similar law, while several other states, including South Carolina, Florida, and Alabama, have already passed similar laws.