Spotlight on Indiana: why anti-trans sports bill HB1041 is a business matter

Today House Bill 1041, an anti-trans sports bill authored by Rep Michelle Davis (h58@iga.in.gov) amidst a flurry of similar bills motivated by animus in Indiana, is being debated in the House Education Committee. As a result, the state is receiving a lot of negative attention from news outlets, including the IndyStar.

Indiana’s HB1041 would require “for purposes of interscholastic athletic events, school corporations, public schools, nonpublic schools, state educational institutions, private postsecondary educational institutions, and certain athletic associations to expressly designate an athletic team or sport as one of the following: (1) A male, men’s, or boys’ team or sport. (2) A female, women’s, or girls’ team or sport. (3) A coeducational or mixed team or sport. Prohibits a male, based on the student’s biological sex at birth in accordance with the student’s genetics and reproductive biology, from participating on an athletic team or sport designated as being a female, women’s, or girls’ athletic team or sport.”

So-called “Sports Bills” banning transgender youth from participating in sports, that have popped up in many conservative US states, go further in fearmongering as they bring a fringe topic to the forefront of the debate hiding the essential question: the wellbeing of trans youth. The idea that thousands of biological males are waiting in the shadows to transition only to win the local high school swimming competition is, obviously, ludicrous.

There is no evidence that any cisgender boys, are moving to identify as girls to be more competitive or gain an unfair advantage in sports. The truth is that transgender children want to live their lives free from discrimination, and some want to play sports with their friends – something HB1041 would ban.

According to the Trevor Project, “While proponents of these bills try to give the impression of a national, grassroots movement to “protect women’s sports,” the truth is these bills are part of a coordinated strategy by anti-LGBTQ organizations, including the Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Policy Institute, and Heritage Foundation. They call their campaign “Promise to America’s Children.” They have set up a website where anti-LGBTQ lawmakers can download draft legislation to introduce.”

Equality organizations such as Freedom for All Americans and Athlete Ally have reiterated the overwhelming position of the private sector on these bills through the Business Statement on Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation that includes over 150 like-minded corporations. Consider joining by reaching out to Hannah Willard, the Vice President of Government Affairs at Freedom for All Americans: hwillard@freedomforallamericans.org

Out Leadership joined the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom For All Americans in sending a strong signal that State legislatures that use transgender rights for political gains are at risk of losing business (see our own The Business Leaders Guide to Transgender Equality in the US). This is something the economy in Indiana cannot afford.

Indeed, Indiana’s legislature has more pressing and urgent matters to consider, such as the fact that Indiana has declined over time from being a Midwestern economic leader to more closely resembling “a Southern state” with stagnant wages and increasing poverty. Read this analysis: “In just a decade of the longest economic expansion in American history, Indiana’s per capita income relative to the rest of the nation saw its biggest 10-year decline in history.” It is no coincidence that the response from lawmakers to bleak economic prospects, from Hungary to Tennessee, is to file bills to embolden hateful people and increase stigma for a group of already vulnerable people. It is the oldest trick in the political playbook.

As a business, consider calling or emailing Speaker Todd Huston (h37@iga.in.gov – legislative assistant: Brittany Jenkins: 317-232-9677, brittany.jenkins@iga.in.gov) or Chair Bob Behning (chair of House Education Committee, h91@iga.in.gov/ rachel.winkler@iga.in.gov), expressing your concern that Indiana’s legislature is joining this wild-goose chase game instead of dealing with the question of the state’s economic recovery and asking that the bill is voted down in committee.

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