(Reuters) – Mississippi’s Republican governor on Thursday signed legislation banning transgender athletes from competing in women and girls’ sports, becoming the first U.S. state to do so this year.
Governor Tate Reeves said a January executive order issued by President Joe Biden that protects transgender women and girls’ ability to compete on sports teams that conform with their gender identity left the state “no choice” but to enact the Mississippi Fairness Act.
“We will protect our young girls and ensure them a fair shot in public school sports. They should not be forced to compete against biological males,” Tate said on Facebook.
Some 37 bills regulating transgender athletes have been introduced in 20 states this year, according to LGBTQ advocates at the Human Rights Campaign.
“Governor Reeves’ eagerness to become the face of the latest anti-transgender push is appalling, as he chooses fear and division over facts and science,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the “unjust and discriminatory” bill signed by Reeves would subject transgender kids to “more harassment, abuse and violence.”
Idaho passed the first-of-its-kind “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” last year, but it was blocked by a federal judge who found it unconstitutional.
This year, South Dakota legislators also have passed a similar measure, and the state’s Republican governor has vowed to sign it.
(Reporting by Maria Caspani and Peter Szekely; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Bill Berkrot)