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Missouri enacts ban on trans athletes in women’s sports as Parson signs two anti-LGBTQ bills

College and K-12 transgender student athletes in Missouri will be banned from competing in women’s sports when school starts again in the fall.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday signed into law a bill that bans both public and private schools, including colleges, from allowing students to compete in sports that don’t match the gender on their birth certificate. It allows female students to compete in male sports if there are no women’s sports available.

“Women and girls deserve and have fought for an equal opportunity to succeed, and with this legislation today, we stand up to the nonsense and stand with them as they take back their sport competitions. In Missouri, we support real fairness, not injustice disguised as social righteousness,” Parson said in a statement.

The new law goes into effect on Aug. 28 and expires in 2027. Schools that violate the law will be stripped of all state aid or revenue. It also allows parents to sue schools if their child “is deprived of an athletic opportunity” in violation of the law.

Republicans have framed the sports ban as an issue of fairness to ensure athletes assigned female at birth are not at a physical disadvantage.

However, only a small number of transgender student athletes compete in Missouri.

Since 2016, 13 transgender students have applied to compete on a team that matches the gender with which they identify. Of those 13, nine were transgender males and four were transgender females. Eight of those 13 students were currently in the age range to compete in 6th through 12th grade sports, a spokesperson for the Missouri State High School Activities Association told The Star in February.

“There were more bills filed this year to block transgender kids from playing school sports than there are transgender kids seeking to play school sports in Missouri, so no one can credibly claim this legislation is about anything but bullying a handful of kids for political gain,” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Springfield Democrat and potential candidate for governor.

Parson signed the sports bill the same day he also signed a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. The Republican governor’s signature came during Pride Month, which commemorates the struggle for LGBTQ rights.

State Sen. Greg Razer, Missouri’s only openly gay state senator, said he planned to be in the legislature when the bill expired in 2027. He vowed to make sure it does not pass again.

“During that time, people will have a better understanding of their transgender friends, neighbors, and family members, and they will see these bills for what they truly are: a desperate, calculated political game using a dangerous expansion of government to target people who just want to live their lives,” said Razer, a Kansas City Democrat.

Heidi Schultz, a transgender women who lives in Kansas City, said that both of the bills were “dangerous and uncalled for.”

“Transgender people’s very lives hang in the balance,” said Schultz.

During floor debates in Jefferson City this year, several Republican lawmakers refused to recognize the existence of trans people.

“Biological males are bigger, they are stronger, they are faster,” state Rep. Jamie Burger, a Benton Republican, said on the floor earlier this month. “The majority of women simply cannot compete.”

The new law restricting transgender athletes comes amid a broader push by Republicans to regulate the lives of transgender people.

State Rep. Chris Sander, a Lone Jack Republican who is gay, in a text message noted that the Missouri State High School Activities Association and the NCAA already have policies governing how trans athletes compete.

“The law does nothing to improve the mental health of Missouri youth and adult athletes,” Sander said.

During a debate in April, state Rep. Keri Ingle, a Lee’s Summit Democrat, said Republicans were trying to legislate an issue they didn’t understand.

“It’s not all about scholarships and competitions. Most of these kids want to play sixth grade basketball and volleyball — that’s what they want,” she said. “When this law passes, they won’t be able to. It’s one less space where they belong.”

The Star’s Jonathan Shorman contributed reporting