Amid a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation pushed nationwide, the Missouri House passed a pair of bills Thursday that would limit transgender students from participating on the sports teams that match the gender they identify with.
One bill, which originally dealt with school transportation, would restrict transgender students to only participating on high school sports teams of “the same biological sex included on the student’s birth certificate.”
The other bill, which deals with changes to elections, would allow voters to bar transgender girls from participating on girls’ sports teams in their school district.
The bills passed by a vote of 95 to 46 and 96 to 47 respectively. With a little over two weeks left in the session, they now head to the Senate for consideration.
Both bills had been the subjects of hours of fierce debate earlier this month when the proposals regarding transgender students were added.
Supporters have argued the provisions are needed to ensure fairness in girls’ sports, while opponents have noted that the Missouri State High School Activities Association already has a policy in place outlining requirements for transgender youths’ participation, and argued transgender kids are being used for political gain.
“It erases these children,” Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, said Thursday on the House floor. “It tells them in statute, in policy that they do not exist.”
Rep. Kurtis Gregory, R-Marshall and the sponsor of the school transportation bill, said it was ultimately an issue of differences that fall on “just two polar opposite sides.”
Advocates have said this year is expected to see a record number of bills passed nationwide that target transgender youth. While states have moved to pass similar limits on transgender youths’ participation in sports, Republican governors in Indiana and Utah have vetoed legislation that reached their desks.
Meanwhile, on a bill debated later in the day would provide pharmacists and teachers with more training to recognize the signs of suicide, Democratic lawmakers urged their Republican colleagues to consider their actions and how it would affect LGBTQ youth’s mental health.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
In addition to training on suicide prevention, the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ann Kelley, R-Lamar, would also require schools print the three-digit number, 988, on student ID cards. Starting in mid-July, the number will act as a new way to route callers to the national suicide prevention hotline.
“Our loved ones must know that if they are ever in crisis, they need to reach out to someone,” Kelley said.
Rep. LaDonna Appelbaum, D-St. Louis, noted that members of the LGBTQ community are four times more likely to commit suicide.
“What we did earlier, attacking the marginalized communities, is disgraceful,” said Rep. Patty Lewis, D-Kansas City. “Are we here to help people or hurt people?”
The bill passed unanimously and now heads to the Senate.
When the House was initially debating the school transportation bill Monday night Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, attempted to offer an amendment that would be a limited version of the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, or MONA, and prohibit school districts from discriminating against their employees on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
In Missouri a person can still be fired, denied housing or kicked out of a restaurant for being gay or transgender, or simply being perceived as gay or transgender. Lawmakers have tried to pass protections for LGBTQ Missourians for 24 years.
Dogan, who also filed MONA as a standalone bill, was the former officemate of Rep. Tom Hannegan, a Republican who was one of only a handful of openly gay lawmakers and had championed LGBTQ rights.
“I would not be doing my late colleague justice if I didn’t do everything I could to fight for his community,” Dogan said.
The amendment ultimately failed by a vote of 60 to 77.
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