Conservative PAC claims Sen. Peters would ‘destroy girls’ sports’
This is part of a series the Detroit Free Press is doing on public issues in conjunction with PolitiFact, a nonprofit national news organization. Suggest a fact-check here.
A new ad from the American Principles Project, a conservative political action committee, claims that incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters is “too extreme for Michigan.”
“All female athletes want is a fair shot at competition, at a scholarship, at a title, at victory. But what if that shot was taken away by a competitor who claims to be a girl but was born a boy? Senator Gary Peters and Joe Biden support legislation that would destroy girls’ sports,” the ad claims.
The basis of the attack? Peters has co-sponsored the Equality Act, a bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, education and public accommodations. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also supports the bill.
While the legislation addresses discrimination in a range of areas, many Republican opponents have focused on the fact that it would allow transgender students to compete on school sports teams based on their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth. So transgender boys and men – born female – could compete on boys’ and men’s school teams, and transgender girls and women – born male – could compete on girls’ and women’s school teams.
Their specific criticism is that allowing transgender girls and women to compete on the basis of their gender identity would create an uneven playing field for student athletes and ultimately end girls’ and women’s sports. That’s a prediction that we can’t fact-check.
C.J. Warnke, the press secretary for Peters’ reelection campaign, called the ad “a blatant attempt to mislead voters and distort the truth about the Equality Act.”
Explaining his support for the same legislation back in 2015, Peters wrote it “would ensure that the same protections our nation has already extended based on characteristics like race and religion are equally available to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.”
Peters’ opponent in his Senate race is metro Detroit businessman John James, who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2018. James’ campaign said it was not involved with the ad and declined to comment.
Here, we’ll lay out how the Equality Act would impact transgender student athletes and the arguments made by those who support allowing transgender athletes to compete according to their gender identity and those who oppose the idea.
The provisions of the Equality Act would affect rules governing student athletes at both the collegiate and scholastic levels.
The NCAA, which regulates student athletics for over 1,000 colleges and universities in the U.S., allows transgender women to compete on women’s sports teams if they’ve completed at least one year of testosterone suppression treatment.
Policies for high school athletes vary by state. Some states allow transgender students to play on girls’ or boys’ teams based on their gender identity, while other states have restrictions in place.
Both policy approaches are being litigated in the courts. Three Connecticut high schoolers have filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s policy allowing transgender students to participate in sports teams according to their gender identity. In August, a federal judge granted a motion for preliminary injunction against Idaho’s law banning transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams corresponding to their gender.
In Michigan, the state Board of Education issued guidance in 2016 stating students should generally be allowed to participate in school sports teams based on their gender identity. But the guidance leaves it to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, which oversees interscholastic sports, to determine the eligibility of transgender student athletes to compete in post-season tournaments sponsored by the association.
The MHSAA makes its decisions case by case. Kathy Vruggink Westdorp, the MHSAA’s assistant director, told PolitiFact Michigan that the association considers school and medical records, but said the ass…
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