Today, Senate lawmakers voted to pass legislation that will prohibit transgender student athletes from playing sports on teams that match their gender identity. The vote opens the state up to costly litigation as the bill moves to Gov. Doug Burgum’s desk for his signature.
The ACLU of North Dakota opposes House Bill 1298. The bill violates the United States Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which protects all students – including those who are transgender – from discrimination based on sex.
“House Bill 1298 attempts to solve a problem that does not exist while slamming the door shut for transgender student athletes to fully participate in their school communities,” said Libby Skarin, ACLU of North Dakota campaigns director. “Nobody wins when politicians start meddling in people’s lives like this. Nobody wins when we codify discrimination like this. Inclusive teams that support all athletes and encourage participation should be the standard for all school sports.”
Legislation similar to House Bill 1298 has been filed across the country in recent years and has been challenged in court. In August 2020, a federal judge blocked Idaho’s law targeting transgender student athletes, recognizing that “it is not just the constitutional rights of transgender girls and women athletes at issue but … the constitutional rights of every girl and woman athlete in Idaho.” and concluded that the law was based on nothing more than discrimination against transgender people.
Additionally, a recent presidential executive order on preventing and combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation states that “children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.” Because of this order, if House Bill 1298 is signed into law, North Dakota will face a U.S. government that is actively enforcing Title IX’s protections against discriminatory policies targeting transgender students.
“House Bill 1298 isn’t about protecting fairness in sports. It’s about erasing and excluding trans people from participation in all aspects of public life,” Skarin said. “It’s about creating solutions to problems that don’t exist and, in the process, harming some of the most vulnerable people in our state.”
About the ACLU of North Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of North Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes South Dakota and Wyoming. The team in North Dakota is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of North Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of North Dakota.