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2023 State of the Schools Address

Steve Marcus

Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo smiles during the 2023 State of the Schools address at Resorts World Las Vegas, Friday, Jan. 27, 2023.

Gov. Joe Lombardo is urging the NCAA to ban transgender athletes whose biological sex at birth was male from competing on collegiate women’s sports teams.

Lombardo and eight other Republican governors sent a letter Monday to the NCAA’s Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CSMAS) stating it had the chance to “guarantee an environment where female college athletes can thrive without concern of inequities,” but current policy allows the NCAA to “avoid responsibility for ensuring fairness of collegiate sports.”

“Due to a lack of action at the federal level, governors have become the last line of defense for protecting fairness in women’s and girls’ sports,” reads the letter, which was also signed by Govs. Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas, Tate Reeves of Mississippi, Mike Parson of Missouri, Greg Gianforte of Montana, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Greg Abbott of Texas, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Mark Gordon of Wyoming.

“As governors of our states, it is our responsibility to care for our constituents and we are doing all we can to protect the fairness of athletics in our states,” the letter continued. “Now, it is time for the NCAA to do the same and make the best decision for all of your athletes.”

In January 2022, the NCAA Board of Governors updated its policy on trans student-athlete participation, making it so that participation is determined on a sport-by-sport basis by the national governing body of that sport.

If the national governing body has no policy addressing trans participation, NCAA eligibility would then be determined by the policy for that sport’s international federation.If theinternational federation has no policy, it would be determined by criteria established by the International Olympic Committee, according to the NCAA policy.

The letter was also sent to NCAA President Charlie Baker and the NCAA Board of Governors, and noted Riley Gaines, the former Kentucky swimmer-turned-activist who in 2022 tied with University of Pennsylvania Swimmer Lia Thomas, a trans woman, for fifth place in the 200-yard NCAA freestyle championship and was not allowed on the winner’s podium alongside Thomas, the eight governors wrote.

“The NCAA has the opportunity to guarantee a fair environment for women’s sports,” the letter reads. “If you take this opportunity, it will expand the possibilities for so many young women for years to come. But if you continue the NCAA’s misguided policies, stories like Riley Gaines’ will only become more common. Policies that allow men and women to compete against one another validate an average male athlete stealing the recognition from a truly remarkable female athlete.”

Lombardo’s office declined to comment further.

But the governor’s signing of the letter marks the latest chapter in Lombardo’s complicated record over transgender protections at a time when conservative lawmakers nationwide — including many signatories of Monday’s letter — have acted to restrict trans rights.

Lombardo earlier this year signed two bills hailed by LGBTQ+ advocates into law, one prohibiting health insurers from discriminating on the grounds of gender identity or gender expression, and the other setting care standards for trans inmates in state-run correctional facilities.

Under Senate Bill 163, insurers are required to cover medically necessary care, which includes gender-affirming care if the patient and doctor agree it would result in better health outcomes.

The other new law, SB 153, directs the Nevada Department of Corrections to apply the “generally accepted standards of care and best practices” involving the supervision, custody and wellbeing of the inmate. Corrections officials are also directed to use “respectful language and currently accepted terminology” that protects the right of the trans inmate and are prohibited to discriminate against offenders who identify as trans, nonbinary or intersex.

Lombardo, however, also vetoed SB 302, which sought to shield providers of gender-affirming care to minors from legal prosecution by states where such care has been restricted. There are 20 states that have instituted gender-affirming care bans for minors, according to the LGBTQ+ advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign.

André Wade, executive director of the Nevada LGBTQ+ civil rights group Silver State Equality, told the Sun in a statement Friday that Lombardo’s signature on the letter was “surprising and concerning.”

“Of the nine governors who signed a letter to the NCAA demanding the organization re-evaluate what the letter calls its ‘misguided’ policies on transgender participation in collegiate sports, Nevada is the only state that has not passed legislation banning trans youth from participating in school sports on teams that align with their gender,” Wade said in the statement. “In fact, Nevada’s Governor Lombardo has been supportive of the transgender community, recently signing into law legislation supporting transgender care.

“It is, therefore, surprising and concerning that as a signatory to the letter, Gov. Lombardo appears to demonstrate a misunderstanding of the science and social issues surrounding transgender youth in sports. As with his support of other transgender legislation and policies, Gov. Lombardo’s views on transgender youth participation in sports should support inclusion and understanding, not discrimination,” Wade continued.

In Nevada, trans participation in youth sports has been permitted at the high school level since the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association updated its policy in January 2014. The NIAA has only received two waivers requesting trans athlete participation, the association told the Sun Friday.

“Silver State Equality will continue to defend the right of all LGBTQ+ students to be afforded the same opportunities as their peers, including the ability to participate in school sports,” Wade said. “Transgender youth have long been affected by intolerance, inaccessibility, bullying and discrimination.

“Like any other student, transgender students thrive when they are treated with respect and dignity. Those who choose to participate in team sports do so for the same reasons as other kids. They want the opportunity to be part of a team where there is a sense of belonging. Taking those opportunities away will not protect other youth but will cause irreparable harm to transgender youth who deserve to be treated fairly and respectfully,” Wade said.

Article written by #LasVegasSun

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