House committee advances bills on parents’ rights, women’s sports

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Republican-sponsored legislation to limit participation of transgender athletes and expand parental decision-making in education passed along party lines in the wee hours Thursday morning after a marathon markup session of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

The first bill, H.R. 734, is aimed at preventing biological boys and men from participating in athletic programs designated for women or girls. The other proposal, H.R. 5, would give parents more authority over educational decisions and put requirements on school systems to ensure parental engagement.

In the session that began Wednesday morning and stretched into the early hours Thursday, the conversation covered everything from school choice, teacher preparation, student data privacy, lessons about the Holocaust, LGBTQ rights, fees to review curriculum, COVID-19 vaccinations, communications about school budgets, and more. 

After numerous amendments by both parties and a final 25-17 vote, both bills will advance for a full House vote. Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., indicated on Wednesday that the vote on the parents’ rights bill would occur in two weeks. Neither bill has companion legislation in the Senate, according to

It was the committee’s first mark-up of the 118th Congress, a fact highlighted by a few Republicans to emphasize the importance of the topics to education. “We are considering two bills included in the Republicans’ Commitment to America. Passage of both will send a strong message: We are making good on our promises,” said committee Chair Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.

Democrats however, said the lawmaking efforts were political maneuvers that distract from students’ academic recovery, mental health supports and access to free school meals.

“The majority has chosen to use our first markup to advance their own political agenda by politicizing students’ education and scapegoating some of our most vulnerable students as the cause of inequity in athletics,” said committee ranking member Bobby Scott, D-Va. 

Here’s how the at-times emotional debate carried out:

Women in sports

The two-page bill, which has 76 co-sponsors, aims to ensure that compliance with Title IX relies on the recognition that a student’s sex is based on reproductive biology and genetics at birth. Specifically, it would bar federally funded school and college athletic programs from allowing biological males to participate in women’s or girl’s sports.

“It is a sad reflection on society that the federal government must step in to protect our nation’s young women,” Foxx said.

Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, said he wants to see girls and women benefit from the protections of Title IX. “Allowing biological men to compete in women’s sports not only eclipses women, but essentially erases them from the winner’s circle altogether.”

Owens added: “You can’t let young girls continue to suffer just to be on the safe side of political correctness.”

Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., said the intent of Title IX is to give more opportunities to girls. “Ignoring the biological differences between men and women is a catastrophe for our girls and women,” she said. 

But committee Democrats saw the issue differently. They said allowing transgender students to compete on athletic teams that match their gender identities is in fact a protection of Title IX. The U.S. Department of Education recently issued a resource document on Title IX and athletic opportunities in K-12 but did not directly address policies for transgender students. The department is expected to release guidance on transgender student athletic participation soon. 

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