Keefer bill would ban trans girls, women from competing in sports based on gender identity

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Rep. Dawn Keefer, R-92nd District, during Swearing-in Day at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

State Rep. Dawn Keefer is helping spearhead legislation that would ban transgender girls and women from competing against cisgender female athletes.

Keefer, R-Franklin Township, introduced the legislation alongside four other Republicans on Monday. The lawmakers argued that it is a violation of Title IX to allow transgender athletes to join sports teams based on their gender identity because the competition would be unfair for biological females.

The federal law created in 1972 requires that women and men be provided equitable opportunities to participate in sports.

"We are changing the course and setting our female athletes up for failure and disappointment," Keefer said, "forcing biological girls to compete against biological boys who are physiologically and biologically stronger and faster." 

With the bill's introduction, Pennsylvania is now the 31st state in the U.S. with lawmakers proposing bills related to transgender athletes, according to Freedom for All Americans, an LGBTQ activist group.

"Trans girls are girls. Trans boys are boys. There is nothing ‘fair’ about discrimination, and that’s what this proposed law would do: discriminate against trans youth," said Naiymah Sanchez, transgender justice coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Gov. Tom Wolf has pledged to veto the legislation. Lawmakers said the bill was in direct response to an executive order signed by President Joe Biden in January.

Biden’s order called upon the federal government to revise existing regulations protecting individuals from discrimination to ensure that "sex" includes sexual orientation and gender identity, the Washington Post reported.

Under the proposed legislation, schools would be required to only allow those who are biologically female to play on sports teams that are designated to be for girls and women.

"Enacting state legislation that protects Title IX today will help promote gender equality by giving biological women a fair playing field when competing," said Rep. Barb Gleim, R-Cumberland.

The bill, however, is likely dead in the water.

"The governor has been clear — hate has no place in Pennsylvania, and that includes discrimination," Wolf spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger said. "Any legislation designed to deny opportunities to certain children is both disturbing and dangerous."

Bill Patton, spokesperson for the House Democratic Caucus, added that the bill was "another dead-end effort by many of the same legislators who spent months peddling baseless claims of nonexistent election fraud."

Allowing transgender girls and women to compete based on gender identity has been a largely partisan issue across the country, with Republicans proposing bills to prevent transgender girls and women from participating in sports that conform to their gender identity.

There are currently more than 60 bills looking to prohibit the participation of transgender athletes in some form in state legislatures throughout the country, according to Freedom for All Americans.

At the federal level, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., has also proposed legislation that would make it so that sex under Title IX "be recognized based solely on a person's reproductive biology and genetics at birth."

That bill remains in the House Education and Labor Committee.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.