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Straight Talk From Steve: The Sports and Spaces Act

Last week Riley Gaines came to Nebraska. Who is Riley Gaines? Riley Gaines is one of America's most decorated female swimmers. Swimming for the University of Kentucky, she became a 12-time All-American as well as the SEC Female Scholar-Athlete of 2022. However, she has begun speaking around the country in support of women's sports and against transgender athletes competing in women's sports.

At the 2022 NCAA Swimming and Diving national championships Riley Gaines found herself having to compete against a certain biological male athlete in her events which were supposed to be reserved for female athletes. Riley Gaines tied for fifth place in the 200-meter freestyle event with a University of Pennsylvania swimmer, Lia Thomas, a transgender athlete. Then, Thomas beat her in the 500-meter freestyle race, becoming the NCAA champion. Afterwards, Gaines filed a formal protest which seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Biological males participating in women's sports as transgender athletes has now become a big problem for female athletes all across America. Many female athletes have now expressed that they are becoming disillusioned and disenfranchised from competing because of this new movement that is overtaking women's sports.

For example, Andraya Yearwood is a transgender athlete who took first place in the women's 100-meter dash and took first place again in the 200-meter dash during a track meet competing against two other high schools in April of 2017. Later that same year, on June 4, 2017, at the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference state championships, Yearwood finished second behind another transgender athlete in the women's 100- meter dash.

Because there are obvious biological differences between male and female athletes, several states have begun taking action to prohibit biological males from participating in women's sports. Nebraska is one of those states. Last year, Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha, introduced LB 575, a bill known as the Sports and Spaces Act. The bill would require athletes to compete in sports according to the sex assigned to them at birth and as recorded on their birth certificate. The bill would also prohibit transgender youths from using bathrooms and locker rooms which do not match the sex assigned to them at birth.

Although Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood, a co-signer of the bill, declared it as his 2023 personal priority bill, the bill never advanced out of committee nor did it get debated on the floor of the Nebraska Legislature this year. Therefore, Sen. Kauth, who introduced the bill, announced to a crowd of approximately 1000 people while speaking at an event with Riley Gaines in Omaha on August 27, 2023 that she will declare LB 575, the Sports and Spaces Act, as her personal priority bill for next year.

The legislative road ahead for Sen. Kauth's bill is certain to be an uphill climb. I say this because ten dilatory motions and amendments have already been filed on the bill by Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, which are all designed to kill it should it ever reach the floor for debate. Nevertheless, last year the State Legislature passed LB 574, the Let them Grow Act, a bill which prevents physicians from performing gender altering procedures on youths under the age of 19, so it may be possible to pass this kind of legislation again next year.

Dr. Gregory A. Brown is an exercise science professor at the University of Nebraska. Dr. Brown affirms that transgender athletes hold a tremendous advantage over biological women in athletics. According to Dr. Brown, in 2017 more than 5,000 biological male runners recorded 400-meter times faster than Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix, two of our best U.S. Olympic gold medalists in the same event. Dr. Brown also points out how research has shown that such things as bone size and configuration cannot be altered by puberty blockers and hormone therapy.

For reasons such as these, common sense says that biological males should not be allowed to compete in women's sports as transgender athletes. Women should not be forced to compete against men, and the time has come to put an end to this practice. I readily co-signed LB 575 last year and I look forwarding to supporting it again in 2024.


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