Rep. Jamie Allard, R-Eagle River, and Rep. Mike Prax, R-North Pole, discuss a proposed amendment to a bill sponsored by Allard restricting transgender students’ participation in school sports during a House floor session on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Rep. Jamie Allard, R-Eagle River, and Rep. Mike Prax, R-North Pole, discuss a proposed amendment to a bill sponsored by Allard restricting transgender students’ participation in school sports during a House floor session on Thursday, May 9, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

After accusations of ‘lying’ and ‘hate’ fly, House passes bill restricting transgender students in sports

Bill passes 22-18 after filibuster by minority, but declared dead in Senate as end of session nears

If nothing else, a transgender sports ban bill passed by the state House on Sunday that is doomed in the Senate exposed the intensely harsh emotions and accusations the issue can generate.

The bill’s sponsor talked about fear-inducing lies being spread by the other side and how anyone who thinks boys can be girls “probably needs to be reevaluated.” An opponent of the bill deplored how “we have to listen to someone so full of hate” in a note supposedly written to an ally that ended up in the sponsor’s hands, setting off one of the numerous hostile exchanges occurring during the three days the bill was on the floor.

House Bill 183, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Allard, an Eagle River Republican, passed by a 22-18 vote during a floor session that stretched late into the night for the second straight day due to debate about the bill (although the House did spend the majority of the day on other legislation before taking up HB 183 during the evening).

All of the Republicans with the 23-member majority voted in favor, as did a Republican unaffiliated with a caucus and minority caucus member Dan Ortiz, a Ketchikan independent. Three majority members — two Democrats and an independent — voted against the bill.

The bill was subjected to a reconsideration vote Monday before being transmitted to the Senate, whose leaders have said it will not be considered before the session ends on Wednesday.

As such, while HB 183 generated an enormous amount of concern and divisive debate statewide, it appears the only actual impact of the bill on the playing field is the House forfeited the annual legislative softball game Sunday evening since they failed to show up to play against the Senate.

The bill restricts Alaska students’ sports participation to teams that match their sex at birth. Such a ban at the high school level was implemented last year by the state Board of Education and Early Development, but the bill expands it to all education levels from elementary school through college.

Allard, in closing remarks just before the vote on the bill, said opposing legislators were lying about the bill — resulting in immediate objections on the floor due to a rule against impugning the motives of members — such as “saying this bill provides for a general inspection of genitalia.”

“That’s gross. That is absolutely insane,” she said. “The narrative that is being put out to all Alaskans across this great state is trying to do a scare tactic. Nowhere in this two-and-a-half-page bill does it say anything about genitalia exams. That is just not true.”

As to the primary objective of the bill, Allard challenged opponents who referred to transgender girls as female.

“Boys cannot be biological girls,” she said. “It’s just not scientifically allowed. And anybody that states that it is probably needs to be reevaluated. Science doesn’t lie.”

Legislators opposing the bill, in addition to describing the restrictions and harassment transgender students will be subject to, said the presence of transgender athletes in school sports in Alaska is exceedingly rare and that legislative attorneys have stated the bill likely violates privacy rights granted by the Alaska Constitution.

Among the opponents offering personal narratives was Rep. CJ McCormick, a Bethel Democrat, who said he was different than other kids growing up due to a rare spinal condition, and as a result “kids used to beat me up, used to make fun of my neck.” He said he was able to become friends with some of the students by playing sports with them, but testimony by parents of transgender students during hearings about the bill reminds him of the problems he experienced as a youth.

“There’s a testifier that I recall quite vividly talking about their trans child — for some reason I remember specifically talked about their trans child’s love for Minecraft — and how terrified they were for legislation like this and why their children are the topic of a debate like this,” he said.

Allard made her closing remarks immediately after McCormick, which prompted Rep. Alyse Galvin, an Anchorage independent, to write a note ostensibly for McCormick that was delivered to Allard, and later obtained and published by The Alaska Landmine.

“CJ, I’m so sorry for you to have to relive your experiences,” the note states. “Awful ugly experiences. And now we have to listen to someone so full of hate. I’m grateful for your words.”

According to the Landmine, Allard, during an at-ease, said “Hey Alyse, do you want this note that says I’m ‘full of hate’ to go to CJ, who it was supposed to go to?” Galvin replied no.

The bill’s passage came after minority members staged a filibuster by offering nearly 90 amendments beginning Thursday night. The bill was tabled that night until Saturday, when the House spent more than 12 hours getting through the amendments with contentious political maneuvering and words about the legislation on both sides.

Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or 907-957-2306.

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