MONTGOMERY — Legislation barring college athletes from participating in sports that do not correspond to their biological sex passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Alabama law prohibits individuals from participating in sports teams that do not correspond to their biological sex in all public K-12 schools. However, university athletics are governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

House Bill 261 (HB261), sponsored by State Rep. Susan DuBose (R-Hoover), would require all public two-year and four-year institutions of higher education to prohibit biological males from participating in athletic teams or sports designated for females and vice versa.

The bill is controversial but has drawn less debate and pushback than many lawmakers expected.

Newly elected State Rep. Phillip Ensler (D-Montgomery) took to the podium to protest the bill, saying it would lead to costly litigation for the state and exclude transgender individuals.

Ensler proposed an amendment to require the state to abide by Federal Title IX rules and any additional rules passed by the NCAA.

Dubose motioned to table the amendment, effectively killing it.

"To those who are listening, that do feel marginalized by this bill, I hear you, I see you, and I love you for who you are," Ensler said.

House Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle) introduced an amendment that removed intramural sports and created a statute of limitations of two years for a private cause of action against anyone that violates the provisions of the bill. The House approved that amendment.

Several Democratic lawmakers spoke in opposition to the bill. Some complained that the legislation was a "solution in search of a problem." Others said it would be used to discriminate against transgender individuals.  

The only House Democrat to speak in favor of the bill was State Rep. Patrick Sellers (D-Birmingham).

"If you are a father of daughters, think about your babies in a locker room with boys," Sellers said.

He continued, "It is just not fair for a man to play against the women. It doesn't matter. A man is physically stronger than a woman, and that's Bible. So, it's important to make sure that we protect our baby daughters."

After his remarks, Sellers received a standing ovation throughout the room.

The bill passed the House with a vote of 83-5, with 14 members abstaining. The bill will now go to the Senate for deliberation.

House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) said he was pleased with the bill's passage, saying he thought having some Democratic support for the bill was a "telltale sign" of the bill's importance. 

"I think we kind of ensured women's rights in Alabama, and I'm proud of that," Ledbetter said. "I mean, women fought for years and years to have their rights, and it seems like in the last year-and-a-half, two years, they're trying to take it away with men playing women's sports, so I fully supported the bill. I thought she done a good job with it."

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