Transgender athletes in North Carolina can breathe a little easier after a nascent legislative effort to bar transgender girls and women from participating in school sports was shelved. A big reason the bill isn’t going to become law? It “solves a problem” (that isn’t really a problem) that simply does not exist. The bill was thrown out because no one in the state had complained about trans kids playing sports.
House Speaker Tim Moore told the Raleigh News & Observer that his staff could not find a single complaint in North Carolina on this particular issue. Indeed, since 2019 the North Carolina High School Athletic Association has received fewer than ten requests from transgender teens seeking to participate in sports.
“We’re not really hearing any complaints about that where it’s an issue,” Moore said. “A wise legislature does not go out looking for social issues to tap.” And while it’s a bit rich for a Republican to come out against “looking for social issues” for political ends, it’s good that this bill is dead (for now).
The decision to eschew the most transphobic voices in the party sets Moore apart from his GOP colleagues in other states. Similar bills have been introduced in 31 other states and four—Arkansas, Tennessee, South Dakota, and Mississippi—currently have such policies in effect.
The “Save Women’s Sports Act” joins the Youth Health Protection Act as a legislative failure in the Tar Heel state. That even more draconian anti-trans bill that would make it illegal for doctors to provide gender-affirming care to people under 21, required all state employees (including teachers and counselors) to report gender nonconformity in minors to their parents, and prohibited state health insurance from paying for any gender transition procedure failed.
But while the failure of these two bills is certainly good news, advocates for transgender youth can hardly rest easy. Though North Carolina has a Democratic governor, and while the GOP controls the legislature, it does so without a vetoproof majority. So even if the party expended political capital to pass these bills they still would not have become law.
In that light, their premature demise looks less like a capitulation and more like a strategic retreat. Unfortunately, the odds are good that there will be more efforts in North Carolina—and around the country—to codify cruelty toward transgender people into law.