March 19 (UPI) -- The Alabama House of Representatives has passed legislation to prohibit transgender athletes from competing in sports in K-12 schools, positioning the state to become the latest this year to enact the controversial ban.
H.B. 391 passed 74-17 mostly along political lines on Thursday with only two Democrats crossing the aisle to vote in favor of the bill with three lawmakers abstaining and nine absent, sending it to the Senate.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Alabama is one of more than 25 states considering bills to exclude transgender youth from athletics this year, including Mississippi, which last week became the first state in 2021 to enact such legislation.
Both the Alabama Democratic Party and the ACLU described the bill has "anti-trans" legislation as it bars K-12 schools from participating, sponsoring or providing coaching staff for athletic events that allow students from competing against those of a different biological sex unless the event is specifically for both males and females.
"Trans kids should have the opportunity to play sports just like other kids do," the ACLU of Alabama said in a statement.
Republican Rep. Scott Stadthagen, who introduced the bill, told lawmakers during the debate Thursday that it would provide "a fair, level playing field for female athletes," the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
When asked by opposing lawmakers to consider the perspective of transgender youth, Stadthagen replied he feels sorry for them but said the bill is a priority for him and his constituents.
"What about the females who have worked since they started at four years old, and they get to high school and all their dreams and scholarships yanked before their eyes?" he asked.
Anthony Daniels, the Democrat House leader, remarked that the bill is unnecessary as the Alabama High School Athletic Association policy states athletic participation is based on the sex on one's birth certificate.
"If it's challenged in court, which it will be, it will undo the policy created by the athletic association," Daniels said, AL.com reported.
The Southern Poverty Law Center chastised the passing of the bill Thursday, stating lawmakers chose to solve a problem that doesn't exist by pushing their "irrational fears and transphobic sentiments on to transgender student athletes."
"Targeting transgender youth who wish to participate in sports is just one more cruel attempt to erase their existence," Scott McCoy, SPLC Action Fund interim deputy legal director of LGBTQ Rights and Special Litigation, said in a statement.