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Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor vetoed a high-profile bill that would have barred biological male athletes who are transgender from competing in women’s sports, calling it discriminatory against “marginalized youth.”
“I have been crystal clear during my time in office that hate has no place in Pennsylvania, especially discrimination against already marginalized youth representing less-than-half of 1 percent of Pennsylvania’s population,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement following his veto of the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.”
Wolf added lawmakers who voted for the bill “should be ashamed of themselves” for supporting what he called “incredibly harmful” policy.
The legislation would have required athletic teams sponsored by a public school “be expressly designated” based on biological sex, and that athletic teams designated for “females, women or girls” may not “be open to students of the male sex.”
Republicans, who hold legislative majorities in both chambers, pledged to continue pressing the issue, while a handful of Democrats also broke with Wolf to support the legislation.
One of the chief sponsors of the legislation, State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton – a former student athlete herself – criticized the governor and promised to continue pushing forward:
“Sadly, Gov. Wolf predictably vetoed the ‘Fairness In Women Sports Act’, which shows his disregard for women athletes and the tremendous strides we have made in scholastic athletics during the past 50 years,” Borowicz told Fox News on Monday.
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“We will never stop fighting, and in the end, we will win this battle to keep competitive women’s sports fair, and exclusively female.”
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the current Republican nominee for governor, was a sponsor of the Senate’s version of the bill and pledged action if he wins in November.
“As governor, I will sign it into law,” the retired Army colonel from Chambersburg told Fox News on Monday.
Using a favored quote from former President John Adams, Mastriano remarked when it comes to this issue, “Facts are stubborn things.”
“These biological facts are indisputable, and the discrepancies between the two sexes have been very apparent in athletic completion,” he said, adding in a recent statement biological males have a “clear unfair advantage” over competing females.
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In a joint statement, Borowicz joined chief sponsor State Rep. Barb Gleim, R-Cumberland, and others in claiming Wolf’s veto undermines federal civil rights Title IX protections against sex-based discrimination and ignores female athletic progress.
Meanwhile, the lone State Senate Democrat to cross the aisle supporting the bill, State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, said she understands the high emotions on both sides: “I empathize with the individual in transition, a person who’s trying to come to grips with who they are and seeing sports as an opportunity to be included,” she said in a statement.
“I also feel for the female athlete that trains and competes and views the field as unfair when faced against competing with a transgender athlete,” Boscola added.
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Pennsylvania became the epicenter of the debate following the athletic success of transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who set a program record in May in a 500-yard freestyle event.
In January, the NCAA updated its transgender participation policy to defer to the guidance of each sport’s governing body. The NCAA announced that its policy would become effective in March.
Some female athletes have also spoken out against Thomas’ competition in their events verses the men’s, with University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines telling Fox News she believes there are many female athletes who do not believe transgender individuals should compete against them:
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“I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I am almost certain I’m speaking for a large majority of female athletes,” she said in April. “This is not OK and it’s not fair.”
FINA, the governing body for international swimming, later approved new policies for transgender swimmers, which will only allow swimmers who transitioned before the age of 12 to compete in women’s events. FINA members voted 71.5% in favor of the new policies.
Several states including Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida have passed similar laws, while in Utah the legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto to enact another.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.