Wash. bill proposes categorizing student athletes by chromosomal makeup

Jan 9, 2024, 6:59 PM

Photo: Washington State Senator Phil Fortunato....

Washington State Senator Phil Fortunato announced his candidacy for Washington's Secretary of State . (File photo: MyNorthwest)

(File photo: MyNorthwest)

The Washington State Legislature is set to debate a highly contentious bill that proposes a complete overhaul of how interscholastic and higher education athletic activities are organized within the state.

SB 6116, sponsored by Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn), amends existing laws and introduces new sections to categorize student athletes based on identified sex and chromosomal makeup. Chromosomes determine a person’s genetic sex, where individuals with two X chromosomes (XX) are female, while those with one X and one Y chromosome (XY) are male.

Fortunato stated his bill aims to achieve fairness amid the ongoing debate surrounding individuals born as one sex but identifying as another.

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“The bill seeks, in a non-discriminatory way, to ensure fairness in sports,” Fortunato said.

It proposes four athlete categories: women/girls with XX chromosomes, men/boys with XX chromosomes, men/boys with XY chromosomes, women/girls with XY chromosomes and a separate category for students not fitting within these classifications.

Eligibility for these groups would require medical documentation demonstrating a student’s chromosomal makeup without mandating a blood test.

“They will then compete in their designated category,” added Fortunato. “It’s solely about fairness.”

What violations of this law may lead to

The bill includes provisions granting private causes of action for affected students, school districts or institutions facing harm, discrimination or retaliation due to non-compliance with the specified groupings.

Those affected would have the right to pursue injunctive relief, damages and other legal remedies against entities violating these new categories.

It prohibits adverse actions or investigations by governmental entities, licensing or accrediting organizations, or athletic associations against school districts or institutions obeying the proposed law. Notably, these changes would apply to K-12 schools and higher-education institutions, exempting students in seventh grade and below. Fortunato asserted the simplicity and common sense in the bill.

“Are we really going to let men compete against women fairly? It’s always men competing against women,” he argued. “I haven’t heard anyone complaining about women identifying as men competing in a sport, it’s always the other way around.”

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He further suggested the bill would address locker room concerns.

“If you identify as an XY (male) woman, then you would have a separate shower time,” Fortunato explained. “You wouldn’t share a shower with XX women; you’d only shower with XY women.”

Before the senate can vote on the bill, it must undergo review by a senate committee, with no set hearing date.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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Wash. bill proposes categorizing student athletes by chromosomal makeup