Allegheny County Council Fails to Condemn Anti-Trans Legislation

Allegheny County Council Chambers.

On Tuesday, a motion to condemn state and federal legislative attempts to prohibit transgender athletes from participating in youth and collegiate sports leagues of their gender identity failed in a vote of 7 in favor to 6 opposed. A motion of council requires 8 affirmative votes for passage.

The sponsors of the motion were Council members Bethany Hallam (D) and Olivia Bennett (D). Council members Hallam, Bennett, John Palmiere (D), Tom Duerr (D), Paul Klein (D), Anita Prizio (D), and DeWitt Walton (D) voted in favor of the motion while Council members Bob Macey (D), Sam DeMarco (R), Bob Palmosina (D), Cindy Kirk (R), Nick Futules (D), and Paul Zavarella (D) voted against. Council members Pat Catena (D) and Tom Baker (R) abstained.

After the motions failure, Council Member At-Large Bethany Hallam said, ” I have watched as anti-trans legislation was introduced in dozens of states and even at the federal level, and I refused to stand by and do nothing as my trans friends and neighbors were being harmed. I wanted to take a collective stand with my County Council colleagues that trans rights are human rights, and that we will do everything in our power to ensure our transgender community members are safe in Allegheny County. Unfortunately, a majority of my colleagues could not look past their own ignorance and bigotry to support this Motion of Council, and that’s devastating”

In a disgraceful comment before voting against the motion, Democratic Council member Bob Macey said, “If this motion passes, that means that Kris Jenner could compete against women,” presumably confusing Caitlyn Jenner, who is trans, with her ex-wife Kris, who is cisgender. Council member Macey is up for re-election in 2021 and faces Democratic challenger Steven Singer in the May 18th primary.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) issued a policy on trans inclusive participation in 2014. The Allegheny County Human Relations Commission already includes gender identity and expression as a protected population from discrimination.

The full text of the motion read:

Motion of the Council of Allegheny County denouncing the attempts of state and federal legislators to prohibit transgender athletes from participating in sports on the youth and collegiate level, and urging sports programs, both youth and collegiate, within the Commonwealth to adopt and support transgender inclusive policies for their teams.

WHEREAS, as of March 13, 2021, twenty-nine states had filed legislation to limit transgender athletes from participating in sports, as well as the federal bill, H.R. 8932, “Protect Women’s Sports Act”; and

WHEREAS, these legislative attempts are continued attacks against the LGBTQ+ community that occurred under the Trump Administration; and

WHEREAS, limiting access to sports negatively impacts mental health, where the physical and psychological benefits of school sport participation are wide ranging and not limited to lower rates of obesity, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts as well as increased self-confidence and self-esteem and connectedness to school and community connectedness; and

WHEREAS, according to a 2019 Youth Risk Behavior State and Local Survey, a representative study of individuals in grades 9 through 12, 44 percent of transgender youth reported considering committing suicide compared to 19 percent of cisgender students; and

WHEREAS, on President Joe Biden’s first day of office he signed an executive order that mandates blanket inclusion for all transgender athletes and directs the federal government to fully implement the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock vs. Clayton County, Georgia, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in school and sports settings; and

WHEREAS, The Women’s Sports Foundation, a leading advocate of equity in sports, maintains that the Equal Protection Clause in the U.S. Constitution as well as Title IX prohibit sex discrimination, and includes protections to transgender students and athletes; and

WHEREAS, according to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the State of Pennsylvania is one of ten states without an official policy for non-discrimination against transgender athletes, therefore leaving it up to the school or institution’s discretion; and

WHEREAS, Allegheny County prides itself on its sports and is committed to creating a welcoming and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals; and

WHEREAS, it is the judgment of Council that Allegheny County must continue to pursue policies to advance equity, and that prohibiting transgender athletes from participating in sports runs counter to our commitment to building a more inclusive future for our children.

The Council of the County of Allegheny therefore hereby moves as follows:

Allegheny County Council denounces the attempts of state and federal legislators to prohibit transgender athletes from participating in sports on the youth and collegiate level and urges sports programs, both youth and collegiate, within the state to adopt and support transgender inclusive policies for their teams.

It is hereby further moved that:

A copy of this Motion shall be sent to the Allegheny County delegation of the Pennsylvania House and Senate, the chairs and minority chairs of the State House and Senate Education Committees, Governor Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega, Congressman Mike Doyle, Senator Pat Toomey, and Senator Bob Casey.

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