HILO — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii has sponsored legislation that would prevent transgender athletes from participating in women's collegiate athletics.
The legislation could halt federal funds to organizations allowing transgender or nonbinary athletes to participate in athletic programs that do not match their "biological sex at birth," The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Saturday.
Transgender describes people whose gender identity does not match the sex they were identified as having at birth. Nonbinary people are those whose gender identity is not strictly male or female, which is not synonymous with transgender.
Gabbard, a former Democratic presidential candidate, sponsored the bill with Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma.
The legislation is based on Title IX, a 1972 federal civil rights law forbidding gender-based discrimination in schools receiving federal funds, and ensuring women's college athletics programs receive support equaling men's sports.
Gabbard's bill, the Protect Women's Sports Act of 2020, says compliance with Title IX should be determined "on the basis of biological sex as determined at birth by a physician."
The proposed law would prohibit transgender women from participating in women's athletics and require they compete in men's athletic programs.
"Title IX is being weakened by some states who are misinterpreting Title IX, creating uncertainty, undue hardship and lost opportunities for female athletes," Gabbard said in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Education cited Title IX in 2016 to allow transgender students to use restrooms or locker rooms of their chosen gender. The ruling was rescinded by President Donald Trump.
Patrick Guillen, University of Hawaii at Hilo athletics director, said that to his knowledge there have been no transgender athletes at the school since he joined the staff more than five years ago.
Title IX was intended to improve parity between women's and men's athletic programs at a time when women's programs were often underfunded by comparison, Guillen said.
About 63% of University of Hawaii at Hilo athletes are women, Guillen said.
"Technically, Title IX doesn't actually mention a specific sex, it just mentions the underrepresented sex," Guillen said.
During his nine years as athletics director at California State University, Dominguez Hills, transgender participation in athletics was never an issue, Guillen said.
But he said he expects the topic will become more prevalent in the next few years with growing awareness of transgender issues.