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Montana governor Greg Gianforte passed a law on Friday banning transgender youth from participating in sports teams that match their gender identity.
Backed by Republican state lawmakers, the bill requires public school sports teams to restrict participation based on “biological sex”. The measure also includes explicit language stating that girls’ or women’s sports teams “may not be open to male students”.
The bill sparked heated debate in Montana’s GOP-controlled lawmakers before it was passed in April. Legislators eventually passed the bill along with an amendment that would invalidate the bill if the government withheld federal funds in response to the ban and state appeal efforts failed.
President Biden signed an executive order in January calling on public schools to allow transgender athletes to participate in sports teams based on their gender identity. The order signaled that schools that fail to comply with these regulations could lose their federal funding under Title IX, prohibiting gender discrimination.
Montana is one of more than 20 states that have reviewed or passed laws to allow transgender athletes to participate in youth sports. Similar measures have been taken in Mississippi and Tennessee, among others.
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The state bills have sparked a heated national debate. Critics of the legislation argue that the laws are discriminatory, while proponents say they are designed to prevent unfair competition in girls’ and women’s sports.
In April, the NCAA issued a statement proposing the removal of championship events from states that pass laws restricting transgender athletes from participating in sports teams.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.