JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The leader of Missouri's state Senate on Thursday said Republican senators are unified against letting transgender girls play on girls' sports teams.
Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden's comments to reporters on Thursday signal that restrictions on what teams transgender student athletes can play on have a good chance of passing the GOP-led Legislature this year.
Supporters and opponents spoke for hours during an intense public House committee hearing on several bills dealing with transgender student athletes, gender-affirming treatment and drag shows. The hearing lasted through Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.
Missouri’s current public high school sports rules already prohibit transgender girls from competing on girls teams unless they have undergone at least a year of hormone therapy and continue taking medication to maintain their hormone levels.
The Missouri State High School Activities Association requires transgender athletes to apply and submit documentation of medical care in order to compete as the gender they identify with.
A spokesman for the association said 13 students have been approved since the organization adopted the rules in 2012, including only four transgender girls.
Senate Democratic Minority Leader John Rizzo called the focus on transgender athletics “absurd.”
“There's more bills about trans kids playing sports than there are trans kids that want to play sports,” Rizzo told reporters Thursday.
Rowden said Senate Republicans also support banning minors from receiving gender-affirming surgeries and that bans on other treatments, such as hormone blockers, are still under consideration.
“We're gonna take action on that issue,” Rowden said. “Our caucus is very united behind the idea that minors should not have gender reassignment surgery taken before the age of 18.”
Bills introduced in the Legislature would ban Missouri doctors from providing any gender-affirming treatments for minors and prevent insurance from covering those treatments for minors.
Transgender medical treatment for children and teens is increasingly under attack in many states, labeled child abuse and subject to criminalizing bans. But it has been available in the United States for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.
Efforts to outlaw public drag performances in Missouri appear less likely to advance.
When asked about whether he supports bills that would outlaw public drag performances, Rowden said lawmakers have “more important stuff to talk about.”
Proposed legislation would make performing in drag in public or where a minor could watch a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.