In her waning days in the U.S. Congress, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii is again making headlines.

On Thursday the Hawaii Democrat and unsuccessful U.S. presidential candidate introduced a bill her office said will “ensure Title IX protections for women and girls in sports.”

According to a press release, “Given the average difference in abilities conferred by biological sex, this bill would clarify Title IX protections for female athletes is based on biological sex.”

Title IX is the landmark legislation that was championed by the late Patsy Mink, the Democrat whose seat Gabbard now holds. Among other things, it provides equal opportunity for women and girls in high school and college sports.

But the Protect Women’s Sports Act, co-introduced by Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, is being described by critics as anti-transgender.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard press conference announcing a future congressional inquiry into the whistleblower at the Department of Health, Epidemiologist Dr. Jessica Smith’s accusations about the lack of contact tracing staff. August 14, 2020
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard wants to change the landmark Title IX legislation, which has upset some supporters of transgender rights. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

“Tulsi Gabbard is now introducing a blatantly transphobic piece of legislation aimed at trans and non-binary young people,” civil rights activist Charlotte Clymer wrote on Twitter of the bill, HuffPost reported Thursday.

“Remember when Tulsi Gabbard tried to convince us she was an LGBTQ ally? We knew she was a liar, a fraud,” wrote Zeke Stokes, former chief programs officer of LGBTQ rights organization GLAAD.

And here is a statement from the Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center:

“Transgender persons in Hawaii are afforded broad protection under state anti-discrimination statutes. Public schools should clearly take additional measures to help ensure the health and well-being of their transgender students, who are already less likely to get adequate nutrition, sleep, or exercise than their LGB and cisgender peers according to a 2018 report from the Hawaii State Department of Health. The report also found that transgender youth are four times more likely to skip school because of feeling unsafe compared to their cisgender peers. Transgender youth experience higher rates of housing instability and sexual violence and are more likely to engage in high risk behaviors, including the use of alcohol and other drugs. Inviting transgender student participation in sports is welcome, but it is just one policy response of many that are needed to improve the health and well-being of Hawaii’s transgender students. HHHRC also supports changes to federal law that provide protections for transgender persons in housing, public accommodations, and education, including the right to participate in publicly-funded sports activities.”

But Gabbard, who cites Mink in her press release, said, “Our legislation protects Title IX’s original intent which was based on the general biological distinction between men and women athletes based on sex.”

Said Mullin, “As the father of three girls involved in athletics, I want them to be able to compete on a level playing field.”

Changes to Title IX have been proposed before.

Sports Illustrated reported Friday, “Though NCAA rules allow transgender women to participate in women’s sports, this is not the first time legislation has presented an obstacle. Various branches of government have disagreed on this issue just this year.”

If passed, the magazine noted, institutions that violate the new law could lose federal funding.

Gabbard has apologized in the past for formerly holding anti-LGBTQ+ views.

A media inquiry to Gabbard’s spokesman Haig Hovsepian was not immediately returned Friday.

Hawaii state Sen. Kai Kahele, a Democrat, will succeed Gabbard when the new Congress is sworn in Jan. 2. Gabbard did not seek a fifth term.

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