Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a
Republican, on Thursday signed a controversial bill that bars
transgender girls and women from participating in female sports.
Lawmakers approved the legislation on
The legislation is part of a wave of
anti-transgender bills being introduced by Republican lawmakers.
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest
LGBT rights advocate, nearly 50 similar bills have been introduced
Earlier this month, Mississippi's
GOP governor signed a similar bill and South
Dakota Governor Kristi Noem asked lawmakers to exclude college sports
in the bill they approved, a move seen largely as an attempt to
ease fears of a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
GOP Representative Sonia Barker, the
bill's sponsor, said that the bill was needed to create “a level
playing field for girls and women in our Arkansas schools.”
But Representative Tippi McCullough,
the top Democrat in the Arkansas House, said that such measures make
growing up more difficult for transgender teens.
“It's extremely hard to be a kid, and
if you're a transgender kid, your life's even harder,” said
McCullough, the only openly gay member of the Arkansas Legislature.
“Sports gives kids a place to belong, a place to be included, a
place to succeed or learn to deal with setbacks and work to overcome
HRC President Alphonso David said in a
statement that the legislation would tarnish Arkansas' reputation. In
his remarks, he also alluded to passage of an anti-transgender bill
in North Carolina, which resulted in boycotts against the state.
“Governor Hutchinson’s eagerness to
sign this discriminatory legislation is an affront not just to the
transgender kids it is bound to hurt but to all Arkansans who will be
impacted by its consequences,” David said. “Hutchinson is
ignoring the ugly history of states that have dared to pass
anti-transgender legislation in years past, and by doing so he is
exposing Arkansas to economic harm, expensive taxpayer-funded legal
battles, and a tarnished reputation.”
“Transgender kids are kids who just
want to play, and they deserve that chance. The fact that neither
Governor Hutchinson nor the legislators who voted to pass this bill
have named a single example of what they are legislating against
underscores that this is simply a politically motivated bill for the
sake of discrimination itself. Governors who make their state more
discriminatory often suffer the consequences and damage their state
in the process and Governor Hutchinson is no different,” he said.