Bills would ban transgender youths from sports teams, block gender alteration procedures for minors

Critics call anti-trans proposals ‘alarming acts of government overreach’ that force trans kids ‘out of public life’

By: - January 17, 2023 6:42 pm
youth sports

A young athletes’ “biological sex” would determine which school-sponsored sports they could participate in under a proposal in the Nebraska Legislature (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — Nebraska would join at least 18 other states that have enacted bans on transgender youth participation on sports teams, under a bill introduced Tuesday in the Nebraska Legislature.

The “Sports and Spaces” proposal, introduced by State Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha and 27 co-sponsors, would limit participation of youth athletes to school-sponsored teams intended for their “biological” sex.

“It just seems like common sense,” Kauth said.

Legislative Bill 575 also would block biological boys out of girls’ locker rooms and vice versa. The senator said it would also prohibit “bigger, stronger, faster” biological boys from playing girls sports.

‘Let Them Grow Act’

The senator, who was appointed to her seat in June by then-Gov. Pete Ricketts, also introduced a  “Let Them Grow Act” that would block any gender alteration procedures prior to a person’s 19th birthday.

Kathleen Kauth
State Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha (Craig Chandler/University Communication)

That proposal, LB 574, recognizes that gender altering surgeries are “irrevocable” and “life altering,” Kauth said, and that a policy of “watchful waiting” is better.

“We need to give kids a chance to think and grow, and get all of their physical development done and make these decision when they’re adults,” Kauth said.

Kauth’s proposals will have an ally in new Gov. Jim Pillen, whose campaign website pledged that he would ” oppose the radical transgender agenda at every turn.”

‘Deeply harmful’

The proposals brought immediate criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska as “alarming acts of government overreach” and a “deeply harmful” attack on transgender youth.

“Trans youth belong in Nebraska, and they should be able to grow up as exactly who they are,” said Jane Seu, legal and policy counsel for the ACLU of Nebraska.

Abbi Swatsworth of OutNebraska said that such bills force transgender youth “out of public life” and bar them from experiencing “health, freedom and joy” due to “unjust restrictions.”

Currently, the Nebraska State Activities Association, which governs school sports in the state, has a process in which “bona fide” trans students can play sports consistent with their gender identity.

Under the policy, students must provide proof of their “consistent gender identification” and completion of at least one year of hormone treatment, or show that they have undergone a gender reassignment procedure. In the case of a transgender female, an NSAA committee must also determine that the student “does not possess physical … or physiological advantages over genetic females …”

Five have met current policy

Five students have been approved for participation in sports consistent with their gender identify since 2017, according to Jay Bellar, executive director of the NSAA.

Kauth said that her proposal on sports participation is clearer than the current policy and is fairer to women, who had to fight for the right to participate in sports.

Howard Brown Health, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ organizations, maintains that such sports bans are discriminatory and block students from activities that build self-esteem and leadership skills.

The organization says that such bills are a threat to “an already vulnerable community” and that there is no “conclusive scientific evidence” that transgender women have physical advantages.

Eighteen states, including Iowa and South Dakota, have passed sports bans, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank that tracks such policies.


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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.