Currently, 18 states have anti-trans sports laws on their books (although some have been temporarily blocked by judges), which means schools across the country must decide whether to follow state or federal laws on the matter.
In March, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) signed an anti-trans bill into law to ban trans girls in grades kindergarten through 12 as well as trans girls in college from playing girls’ sports.
This has forced Iowa school districts to decide whether to follow their state’s anti-trans bill or the federal anti-discrimination policies that the Biden administration has put forth.
In an opinion on Title IX released last summer, the Department of Education announced increased protections for LGBTQ students and banned discrimination “on the basis of sex” in schools.
“Students cannot be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told the New York Times when the new rules were proposed.
Now, mainly Republican-led states like Iowa are rebelling against the administration and refusing to implement the Department of Education’s guidelines.
According to reporting by Axios, most school districts in Des Moines and the surrounding area have chosen to follow state law. However, most of those school districts also say they are not aware of any situation in which a trans girl has even tried to participate in girls’ sports.
The conflict between state and federal laws has been made even more complex and frustrating because the Biden administration said it would release a separate recommendation about sports, in addition to the opinion released last summer by the Department of Education, but it has yet to do so.
The matter of trans girls in sports became an issue only within the past few years, when Republican lawmakers began to give it national attention. Now, it has taken center stage in many areas as the midterms approach.
In Iowa, for instance, State Senator Jake Chapman (R) sponsored an advertisement calling his opponent, Democratic State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, a “radical activist” for voting “to let biological males compete in girls’ sports.”
Conversely, advocates for LGBTQ rights argue that Title IX protects transgender student-athletes’ rights. President Biden himself supported this stance, and in a second executive order he banned anti-LGBTQ discrimination in schools. Biden and the advocates both argue that transgender and cisgender girls are girls, and telling one group of girls that they can’t play sports simply because of the sex they were assigned at birth is one example of the type of discrimination “on the basis of sex” that Title IX prohibits.