The Biden administration has postponed a plan to prohibit across-the-board bans on transgender athletes in school sports, a decision that comes during a heated election year where Republicans are mobilizing around restrictions on transgender youth.

Over two dozen Republican-controlled states have already sued over a separate federal regulation designed to protect the rights of transgender students. This regulation, which falls under Title IX, mandates that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited. While it does not explicitly address transgender athletes, GOP leaders argue it implicitly forces schools to allow transgender girls to compete on girls’ teams.

The Biden administration’s proposed policy would have explicitly barred schools from enacting blanket bans on transgender athletes. The Education Department received over 150,000 public comments on the proposed athletics policy but has not provided a timeline for its release.

Republicans are emphasizing the issue of sports fairness, aiming to resonate with parents and athletes concerned about competitive equity. Numerous states have introduced student-athletes as plaintiffs in their lawsuits and have held press conferences to garner attention.

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Advocates argue the GOP’s stance is politically motivated rather than grounded in the actual content of the rule.

Transgender youth and their families contend that the restrictions unfairly target trans athletes.

Several states, including Arkansas and Oklahoma, have declared they will not comply with the new Title IX regulations. GOP challenges have been filed in various federal circuit courts, hoping to block the rule before it takes effect in August.

The White House’s delay in implementing the athletics-specific policy appears to be a strategic move to avoid further controversy before the upcoming election. Meanwhile, Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach (R) has criticized the lack of clear guidance on athletics, describing it as a “red herring.”

States challenging the rule have also enacted laws restricting transgender athletes, as well as policies limiting restroom access and pronoun usage in schools. The new Title IX rules could overturn these regulations.

When Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) signed an executive order refusing to comply with the Title IX regulations, she was accompanied by former Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who has vocally opposed allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports.

GOP states are also seeking Supreme Court intervention to uphold their restrictions. West Virginia, for example, is appealing a ruling that allowed a transgender athlete to compete on her middle school team.

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