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Oklahoma Governor signs transgender student athlete ban into law

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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is flanked by cisgender female athletes after signing a ban on transgender student athletes competing in women's sports. March 30, 2022.

Flanked by cisgender female athletes and lawmakers, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a ban on transgender student athletes competing in women’s sports into law Wednesday morning.

The move comes after the state senate resurrected and passed Senate Bill 2 from the previous year, last week.

The so-called Save Women’s Sports Act precludes transgender student athletes from competing in women’s sports.

Stitt said it’s important to protect female athletes.

“We're ensuring a level playing field for female athletes who work hard, who train hard, who are committed to their team, who have dreams to be number one in their sport, who deserve a fair competition,” Stitt said.

LGBTQ advocates say Senate Bill 2 is unecessarly divisive. They say it will harm transgender students and prevent them from playing with their peers.

While debating a practically identical bill, Rep. Mauree Turner was highly critical of the measure. A member of the rules committee, they said bans from athletics would hurt trans students earlier this month.

“It says that they’re not welcome to participate in sports with us,” they said. “It says that we don’t want to see them, we don’t want to hear them, we don’t want to participate in things with them.”

Oklahoma City Democrat Sen. Julia Kirt said the measure would hurt transgender children by preventing them from playing with their peers. She said passing it erases their identity as transgender people.

“Transgender people are people first and foremost and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” Kirt said.

GOP sponsors of the legislation have lauded the measure every step of the way.

Oklahoma is the latest in a string of Republican-led states to pass this type of ban. Similar measures have become law across GOP-controlled states this year. However, GOP governors in Utah and Indiana have recently vetoed virtually identical bills. The Republican legislature in Utah did override the governor’s veto, though.

"I want to protect every girl, every young woman from having to compete against a guy," Sen. Michael Bergrstrom, R-Adair, SB 2’s author, said in Wednesday’s press conference.

Standing behind Gov. Stitt were cisgender female athletes of all ages. OU track and field runner Levi Gladd thanked the governor.

“I believe that all young women deserve the opportunity to excel at whatever sport they choose to be passionate about,” Gladd said. “And I don't think it should be taken away from them, especially for biological reasons that they can't overcome.”

Gladd said she hadn’t competed against a transgender opponent when asked by a reporter.

Robby Korth joined KOSU as its news director in November 2022.
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