Alaska House passes trans sports ban after extended filibuster by opponents

a group of people in a meeting room
Speaker of the House Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, talks to fellow lawmakers about rules for debate on House Bill 183 on Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

The Alaska House of Representatives voted 22-18 late Sunday to ban transgender girls from girls’ school sports teams by limiting access to girls whose original birth certificates identify them as girls.

The decision followed hours of filibustering by a coalition of opponents, but supporters mustered enough votes to defeat dozens of amendments offered by those opponents and advanced House Bill 183 to the state Senate, where the proposal is expected to die without becoming law.

Though the Senate has said it will not hear the bill and there are no known transgender athletes in Alaska school sports, it was nonetheless a top priority for most of the House’s Republicans, who said they were responding to their constituents.

Rep. Jamie Allard, R-Anchorage, said she believes transgender girls are boys, and that the House Republicans were standing in support of other Alaskans who feel the same.

“I want you to know Alaska stands with you. I stand with you. I know my majority members stand with them too. To the parents of the children of Alaska, know we will fight. We will fight for your children. We will fight for your girls in sports,” she said.

Opponents of the bill said that if the proposal ever were to become law, it would immediately draw legal challenges for being discriminatory.

“Trans girls are girls. Our gender identity is determined in our brains, it is coded, it is fixed,” said Rep. Andrew Gray, D-Anchorage, who opposed the bill. “99.5% of us have a gender identity in our brains that matches our physical bodies, half a percent does not.”

Rep. CJ McCormick, D-Bethel, has suffered from a spinal condition since he was young. Speaking on the House floor, he said he was bullied and teased in school for being different. 

“I am a Bethel kid. I grew up in rural Alaska. I grew up with a rare spinal condition. Kids used to beat me up, just made fun of my neck,” he said.

He became friends with some of those bullies because of a shared love of sports, and he vehemently opposed the bill because it puts barriers in sports for children, he said.

“All of this debate is — we’re talking about kids! We’re talking about kids. We are attacking children!” he said.

Rep. Alyse Galvin, I-Anchorage, is the mother of a transgender daughter, and said she finds it hard to believe that Alaskans place this issue as a top priority. She said she believes “outside agitators” and social media have spun people up on the issue, but that can be overcome.

“I think we look within. We tune out the outside voices of hate, and discord. And we focus on our inside voice of love, empathy, compassion, understanding all the things that we were taught. The only way we are going to change the direction of the harmful discourse is to leave it from our hearts,” she said.

The final vote saw all 20 Republicans in the House’s majority caucus vote in favor of the bill, as did Reps. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, and Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan.

All of the House’s Democrats voted against the bill, as did all of its independents, with the exception of Ortiz. Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak and a minority-caucus member, was the lone Republican to vote against it.

After the bill’s passage, Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, requested a re-vote, which may take place Tuesday. The bill is still expected to pass on that re-vote, though the vote total may change.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and X.

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