But on Wednesday, the GOP-controlled Kentucky Legislature voted overwhelmingly along party lines to bypass the governor and enact the ban.
The debate over the inclusion of transgender athletes, especially women and girls, has become a political flashpoint, especially among conservatives.
Kentucky law requires public and private interscholastic athletic schools operated by the state board to “designate all athletic teams, activities, and student sports” in grades six through 12 as either “Boys “, “Coed” or “Girls”.
“An athletic activity or sport designated as ‘girls’ for students in grades six (6) through twelfth (12) shall not be open to members of the male sex,” the law states. The legislation states that “gender” would be based on “the student’s biological sex as shown on the student’s original unedited birth certificate issued at the time of birth” or an affidavit “establishing gender Biological Record of Student at Time of Birth” which is signed by a student’s healthcare professional who has performed an annual medical examination for the student.
While sex is a category that largely refers to physiology, a person’s gender is an innate sense of identity. Factors that go into determining the sex listed on a birth certificate can include anatomy, genetics, and hormones, and there is wide natural variation in each of these categories. For this reason, critics have said that the language of “biological sex”, as used in this legislation, is overly simplistic and misleading.
The law also establishes a similar prohibition for public and private colleges in Kentucky that are “members of a national intercollegiate athletic association.”
The NCAA has spoken out against such bans, saying last April that it is monitoring them closely to ensure the NCAA Championships can be held “in a way that is welcoming and respectful of all participants.”
LGBTQ advocates, who have had limited legal success fighting such bans, were quick to speak out against the new law in Kentucky, along with The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ people. LGBTQ youth, saying the legislation would harm an already marginalized community.
“Governor Beshear was the third governor this year to uphold the dignity of transgender and non-binary youth, and to veto an attempt by lawmakers to root them out. As these young people continue to face relentless political attacks, the Kentucky Legislature voted to override this act of courage and compassion, pushing these marginalized young people even further to the sidelines,” Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs for the group, said in a statement.
CNN’s Amanda Musa contributed to this report.