Senate effectively kills restrictive transgender sports bill

Bipartisan group of senators votes to table controversial bill

The Alaska Senate voted to table a bill seeking to prevent transgender athletes from competing as the gender they identify with, effectively killing the bill for this session.

With the end of the legislative session on Wednesday, lawmakers are trying to pass as many bills as possible, and both the Senate and the House of Representatives have had dozens of bills on their calendars over the past few days. The bill was unlikely to pass the full Legislature, and when it was introduced for debate, Senate Democrats had over a dozen amendments ready to try to alter the bill.

Wielechowski’s first amendment to allow local school boards to set the policy split the Senate in an even 10-10 vote, not enough for a motion to pass.

The bill was tabled last week after only five of what Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said were dozens of amendments prepared. But on the Senate floor Monday evening, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, called a vote bringing the bill back under consideration.

Before debate could proceed Tuesday morning, motions were made to move the bill to the bottom of the calendar, then ultimately to table the bill. Both motions — first to roll the bill to the bottom, then to table the bill — came from Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage. Both motions were met with lengthy at-eases, where lawmakers are able to speak off the record.

[Republican candidates for Congress make their case in Juneau]

Hughes objected to tabling the bill, saying the move would effectively kill the bill. The motion passed 11-8, with Sens. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage; Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks; Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage; Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel; Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks; Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau; Josh Revak, R-Anchorage; Bert Stedman, R-Sitka; Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak; von Imhof and Wielechowski voting to table the bill.

The bill, which would have required elementary and high school sports to require athletes to play on the team with their gender assigned at birth — rather than the gender they identify as — went through a lengthy and contentious committee process, with hours of public testimony given for and against the bill. An amendment added late in the process exempted the University of Alaska from the bill, university spokesperson Robbie Graham previously told the Empire.

In sponsoring the bill, Hughes said she was trying to protect women’s sports from becoming dominated by transgender athletes that may have a genetic advantage. But critics said the law was legally dubious, sought to address a nonexistent problem, and noted implementation would likely run afoul of privacy laws.

In an interview with the Empire on May 12, author, educator and organizer Aidan Key said he’d worked with these same issues in Washington state 15 years ago. Key — a transgender man born and raised in Juneau but who spent more than 30 years in Washington — worked with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association to create a gender-diverse inclusivity toolkit that received an endorsement from each of Seattle’s professional sports teams.

Key began working with youth sports officials on transgender issues over a decade ago, he said, and in that time there have been few challenges to transgender athletes competing.

“After 15 years, there’s only been one case, a young transgender woman running on the track team,” Key, who moved back to Juneau during the pandemic, said. “My question to all the Legislature is, why are you attempting to fix a problem that doesn’t exist?”

The WIAA developed gender identity guidelines for the 2007-2008 school year, according to their website, and updated the guidelines in 2019.

Following the update, the WIAA recorded a public service announcement on gender inclusivity in sports with representatives from six professional sports teams in Seattle — the Sounders soccer team, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, the Seahawks football team, Mariners baseball team, Kraken hockey team and OL Reign soccer team — all endorsing the toolkit.

Contact reporter Peter Segall at Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 5 years old are now approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
COVID shots for kids under 5 available at public health

Roughly 18 million kids nationwide will now be eligible to get their COVID vaccines.

Megan Mitchell, left, and Nick McCoy protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Heartbroken’, ‘Betrayed’: Alaskans react to Roe decision

Supreme Court decision ends nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

Most Read