PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A bill that would bar transgender women and girls from playing on female school sports teams passed the Arizona House Tuesday. It faced strong criticism from House Democrats but was carried by a Republican majority and passed 31 to 29.
"Women are being displaced in their own sport. The playing field is no longer level," said Republican Representative Nancy Barto, who authored the bill.
HB 2706 would require female high school and college athletes to prove their biological sex if a student athlete disputed it. They'd be required to present a signed statement from a doctor based on a genetic test confirming the student's sex.
The bill would apply to all public schools and private schools that are part of an interscholastic athletic association, and all universities under the jurisdiction of the Arizona Board of Regents.
"All that needs to be determined is what sex a person is and that determines which team they can play on," Barto said. While Barto says inspiration for the bill came from incidents in other states, she said she's heard of at least one instance of a transgender girl playing on a female softball team.
According to the bill, any student athlete who claims they've been negatively affected by a transgender athlete can dispute the athlete's gender. Under this bill they would also be protected from retaliation.
That's raised concerns that this could open some people up to bullying because it would be the responsibility of the accused person to prove their sex. Meanwhile, transgender rights advocates question the reasoning behind the bill.
"It's not even the ignorance anymore. At this point I think the point is the cruelty and that is the most upsetting of all," said Chelsa Morrison, whose 11-year-old daughter Marilyn is transgender.
Chelsa says she's concerned about what will happen to her daughter when she enters high school if the bill is signed into law. "I'm worried about any transgender girl seeing this bill and thinking they're less-than," Chelsa said.
"That would really embarrass me," Marilyn said. "And I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that." But the bill's author insists it isn't discriminatory.
"I would say they're really not looking at the true motive of the bill," Barto said. "It's not singling out anybody and it frankly doesn't discriminate or ban anybody from playing sports."
Representative Barto says transgender women and girls could still play on coed teams or on boys or men's teams if they wanted to play a sport. The bill will now go on to the Arizona Senate.