Protecting Women’s Rights in Sports

Protecting Women’s Rights in Sports: An Important Legislative Push

In the realm of sports, fairness and equality are fundamental principles that ensure healthy competition and opportunities for all athletes. However, the issue of transgender participation in women’s sports has sparked a passionate debate around the world in the name of those fundamental principles. With another headline in the media about a trans-woman winning in a female sport–this time it’s in fencing–I’m going to delve into why I chose to fight to protect the integrity of women’s sports through the Save Women’s Sports Act, which we passed during Missouri’s 2023 legislative session. Honestly, it’s so ridiculous that we are even having this conversation, but here we are.

Unveiling the Save Women’s Sports Act:

This bill was actually carried by a different senator in the 2022 session. While it’s not unusual for multiple senators to file the same bill if it’s a passionate topic, it is unusual for me to file something that someone else has already filed and made a lot of noise about. That would usually indicate that the senator carrying it cared deeply about the topic and would ensure its passage–or at least do everything in their power to make it happen.

After the ball was fumbled so many times during the 2022 session, so to speak, I wasn’t about to allow a topic that mattered so much to me–and to women in general–to be toyed with for another year. Maybe I’m being too harsh, if that’s the case, I’m sorry. But–that’s how I saw it. It appeared to be used as a great way to get media soundbites, but not seriously attempted through the legislative process. So, I filed the “Save Women’s Sports Act” myself this year.

A little bit of inside baseball here: filing a bill doesn’t make it move. After I filed the legislation, I went to leadership and to the chairman of the committees that I thought it might go to and expressed my desire to see this policy cross the finish line. This year. That’s what it takes to pass legislation – actually working a bill by having discussion after discussion with leadership, committee chairmen, and colleagues. Even with that, it’s an uphill climb. You have to be strategic. Filing the bill and assuming the legislative process will just magically carry it through is not enough. You have to have discussions early to get your bill brought up in committee early. You have to talk to committee members and then report back to the chairman that you have the votes. It’s a lengthy process, and if you want to be successful in getting it across the finish line and to the Governor’s desk, I suggest you put your head down and work your tail off.

Something I’m used to.

Women’s Issue and Rights:

To me, this is a women’s issue that transcends gender conversations or personal opinions about transgender individuals. I staunchly believe that biological differences between males and females are undeniable and should be respected, particularly when it comes to athletic potential. The ultimate goal of this legislation was to ensure that women can compete on a level playing field and achieve their full potential without facing unfair competition in Missouri schools. But on top of all of that, we as women are not about to start handing off the gains that we have made over the last 50 years. To ask us to do so is blatant discrimination – you do not get to trample on one person’s rights to benefit another.

The opposition to the Save Women’s Sports Act often tried to shift the focus onto the few transgender individuals in Missouri sports who may be affected, questioning why they should be excluded and how mean it was of us to focus on such a “non-issue.” During these debates, I frequently emphasized that it is not about singling out individuals, but rather about defending the rights and opportunities that women have fought so hard to secure in the past half-century. Backing up on this issue is not an option.

The biological differences between males and females cannot be ignored. During discussions about the impact of hormone treatments and/or puberty blockers, I had to constantly push back that these interventions do not alter the inherent physiological differences between males and females. Men are primarily bigger, stronger, and faster. We know this. We witness it daily with our own eyes. Preserving fairness in sports, particularly at high school and collegiate levels, is essential for upholding women’s rights.

Safeguarding Women:

Some sports communities certainly came with boycotts and threats against us, and other states, that sought to pass similar bills. But make no mistake–they were only doing so as a scare tactic to deter Missouri’s efforts. I, along with the majority of my colleagues in the Missouri House and Missouri Senate, made a resounding statement in response to those threats: compromising the rights and progress made by women over the past few decades based on feelings or possible repercussions wasn’t going to happen.

After getting my bill through the Senate, I had to present it in a House committee where I faced scrutiny from a representative that suggested I should focus on protecting women in other ways. It was at this moment that I was very thankful that I had chosen to file this legislation myself and carry it as my number one issue. It was that comment that made it obvious that I was definitely the person for the job. Responding with facts, I informed the representative that I had worked for years doing just that. That is who I am. I have worked on the issues that others deem taboo, controversial, or simply do not understand. Issues that often affect women the most–sexual assault, domestic violence, and drug addiction harming our families. My credibility and dedication to issues that affect women has been well established and documented for years.

Try to dress it up however you choose, but targeting the rights that we, as women, have gained over the past few decades is absolutely in my wheelhouse. I wasn’t about to stand idly by.

In Closing:

I’m proud to say that we have preserved the integrity of women’s sports in our schools in the great state of Missouri from kindergarten through the collegiate level. As we continue to see our rights erode on the national stage with headlines like “Transgender female fencer scores world title over 14-time champion,” I hope other states will join us and say, unequivocally, that women’s rights will not be trampled on.

Frankly, it’s time to push back.

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