Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Senate Bill (SB) 354 on Thursday, sending the controversial bill which bars transgender women from competing alongside other women in sports in the state into law.
SB354, or the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” is sponsored by State Sen. Missy Irvin and State Rep. Sonia Eubanks Barker. It passed the state Senate early this month along near-party lines and passed the state house in a 75-18 vote on Monday. The bill’s language prohibits transgender women from competing with other women in sports at schools across the state, ranging from public elementary and secondary schools to public colleges and universities. Similar bills have been introduced in other state legislatures across the country. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed his state’s version of a transgender sports ban two weeks ago which has very similar language and structure to Irvin’s SB354.
The governor released a statement accompanying the announcement of his signing of SB354 and outlined his rationale for signing the bill the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas describe as “reprehensible and harmful fear mongering aimed at transgender children.”
“[SB354] simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition,” the governor said. “As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law. [SB354] will help promote and maintain fairness in women’s sporting events.”
The ACLU of Arkansas, however, disagrees with the governor’s assessment of SB354.
“This bill does nothing to protect women or girls in sport,” ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson said. “Arkansas needs to support young Arkansans – not target a vulnerable group for political gamesmanship and at the expense of all young people.”
SB354 was filed by Irvin after a news conference Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge held in late February. Rutledge came out opposed to the executive order President Joe Biden signed in his first week in office which aimed at promoting inclusiveness for transgender men and women. Irvin filed SB354 a day after Rutledge introduced the bill’s purpose in her news conference.