Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard rose to national prominence this year as a dark horse candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, announcing in the process that her current term in Congress would be her last. Now, with just weeks left in her time as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Gabbard is ending her tenure by introducing a bill that could codify discrimination by preventing transgender athletes from competing in their sport of choice.
Officially titled the "Protect Women's Sports Act," Gabbard's HR 8932 is cosponsored by Oklahoma Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin, and is designed to uphold "the sex-based intention of Title IX protections by reaffirming the biological sex-based distinctions between men and women in athletics."
On the bill's official entry on the congressional website, that reaffirmation is expanded upon:
For purposes of determining compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in athletics, sex shall be determined on the basis of biological sex as determined at birth by a physician.
In other words, in order to receive federal funding, institutions would have to assess trans individuals based on their "biological sex as determined at birth" and not on their actual gender identity.
Efforts to restrict how transgender athletes compete are nothing new in conservative circles. Transphobic lawsuits over whether or not trans people can compete in gendered sports events have been filed in Idaho, Connecticut, and elsewhere. But Gabbard claimed in a statement accompanying the bill that her goal is simply to protect female athletes.
"Title IX is being weakened by some states who are misinterpreting Title IX, creating uncertainty, undue hardship, and lost opportunities for female athletes," she said, echoing similar statements from Republicans who have long sought to exclude transgender athletes. Indeed, Gabbard's enthusiastic support for her bill, and her partnership with a GOP lawmaker in Mullin, has highlighted a decidedly conservative streak in her political career, including her conspicuous decision to not vote for impeaching President Trump.
After the bill was introduced, Delaware's Sarah McBride, the first openly transgender person elected to a state Senate, mocked Gabbard's rightward turn on Twitter, saying simply: "Tulsi Gabbard: assigned Republican at birth."