The Arkansas Republican Women’s Caucus has a number of bills it plans to support and endorse during the legislative session, but one, a bill that would prohibit transgender athletes from competing in female high school and college sports has seemingly risen to the top. The Caucus held a press conference Thursday (Feb. 25) to tout its support for SB 354, the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” and other measures.
The bill’s lead sponsor and Caucus member state Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, helped to introduce the bill earlier this week. She said at the press conference this could become a significant problem for female athletes in the state if the legislature doesn’t act. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, an announced candidate for governor, has endorsed the bill.
“It’s about opportunities for young girls … we want to work to protect the integrity of female sports,” Irvin said.
The bill would ban any person who was born biologically male from competing in designated female sports. Irvin noted that two transgender athletes competing in female track in Connecticut have won a slew of championships in recent years.
Sports teach teamwork, hard work, and provide a sense of accomplishment for athletes, Irvin said. Allowing biological males to compete against biological females wouldn’t be fair, she added.
“We are working to ensure the young ladies in Arkansas will have a level playing field,” she said.
The ACLU of Arkansas condemned proposed bills earlier this week targeting transgender Arkansans.
“Attorney General Rutledge was elected to represent every Arkansan yet is abusing her power to exploit and bully transgender students and their families as part of a coordinated, sweeping, and sustained attack on LGBTQ Arkansans,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “This bill does nothing to protect women or girls in sport. It is reprehensible and harmful fear mongering aimed at transgender children. Arkansas needs to support young Arkansans – not target a vulnerable group for political gamesmanship and at the expense of all young people.”
The Caucus, composed of 18 members, supports other legislative goals as well including no patient left behind, corrections and education reforms, and the Arkansas Brighter Futures Plan.
“Oftentimes, success means tackling difficult or controversial issues. It means challenging a narrative, digging deeper into our policy debates, and fighting for what we believe,” said Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville. “We are here for the bright future of Arkansas and her people.”
In 2019, the Caucus successfully supported a legislative package that expanded broadband in small towns, designated the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at UAMS as a National Cancer Institute, raised the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, raised literacy standards for teaching children with dyslexia, encouraged women to own their own childcare facilities, and expanded the number safe havens where women could leave newborns.
“I am so proud of all of these women, to be part of this team, and for all the incredible work we are doing together,” Irvin said. “We recognize both the needs and hardships our constituents face on a daily basis, and we know that by working together on thoughtful and meaningful legislation, we can make a difference in the lives of Arkansans.”