Another episode of the culture wars may be coming soon to Missouri ballots.
Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, is pushing a resolution that would ask voters to require transgender high school athletes to play on teams matching the "biological sex" recorded on their birth certificates.
In a committee hearing packed with opponents Wednesday, Ross said he’s trying to address “an issue of fairness” with transgender girls competing in girls’ sports.
He said the arrangement puts girls at a disadvantage by forcing them to compete with “biological males” who are stronger and faster by nature and can shut them out of spots on teams and opportunities that come with them, like college scholarships.
“I want all of these young girls to have the chance to succeed, the chance to take their abilities to the next level,” Ross said. “But in many cases, they're being robbed of that opportunity and that's what I seek to stop.”
Nearly everyone else who spoke on the bill disagreed.
A parade of parents of transgender children, some of whom came with their children, denounced the bill as cruel and discriminatory.
Rori Picker Neiss said it sent a disturbing message to her 9-year-old son, who was assigned female at birth.
“Today,” she said, “my son has had to learn that there are people in this world who don’t like him simply because of the person that he knows himself to be — people who are scared of him, people who want to discriminate against him, and people who want him to stop playing basketball.”
Anneliese Schaefer, who introduced herself as the mother of a transgender female athlete, said Ross’s bill is also unnecessary given the Missouri State High School Activities Association’s “very robust” policy on the matter.
When her daughter wanted to play on the girls team at her high school, Schaefer said, she had to prove her gender identity and that she’d been having hormone treatment to aid transition for at least a year.
“I hope you will consider that,” she said.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, also questioned Ross’s plans to put the issue to a public vote and said the campaign could be traumatic for trans people.
“When we are asking people to vote on people’s right to existence,” Quade said, “what we see is an increase in suicide rates and violence and things that are really damaging to this community.”
Similar legislation filed in other states this year would not require a public vote.
Quade also brought up the 2017 killing of Ally Steinfeld, a transgender teen, in Ross’s home Texas County as an extreme example of what she wants to avoid.
More: Suspect in Texas County trans teen murder case appears in court
Ross, who is running for a state Senate seat this year, responded by saying his resolution has nothing in it to “encourage or deal in any way with that sort of horrendous violence.”
The committee did not take a vote on the matter Wednesday, which is what usually happens the first time a bill is heard.
The legislation is House Joint Resolution 82.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter.