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Tennessee Republicans advance ban on transgender athletes

The bill advanced Tuesday is still in the early stages in through the GOP-dominant Statehouse.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee lawmakers have advanced legislation that would prohibit transgender girls from playing on middle and high school girls' sports teams. 

The bill advanced Tuesday is still in the early stages in through the GOP-dominant Statehouse.

Multiple hearings in both chambers are still required before it could land on Gov. Bill Lee’s desk. 

However, Republican House members expressed enthusiastic support for the proposal during Tuesday’s initial hearing. 

Opponents warn the proposal will almost certainly face costly legal challenges if it’s signed into law. 

Tennessee lawmakers debated a similar bill last year, where the proposal cleared the House chamber but stalled in the Senate.

Lee has called for banning transgender girls from playing middle and high school sports, saying transgender athletes will “destroy women’s sports.” 

Lee made the comments to reporters Wednesday, saying transgender athletes will ruin the opportunity for girls to get scholarships and put a glass ceiling back over women. 

Lee was responding to a question about a Republican proposal requiring student-athletes to prove the student’s sex matches the student’s “original” birth certificate in order to participate in public school sports.

Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community said these claims are not true. The Tennessee Equality Project said data shows a minimal number of transgender athletes where bans do not exist, and advocates said the anti-transgender rhetoric from lawmakers is harmful.

"Imagine absorbing that message and it being sanctioned at the highest levels of government in your state... and the impact on you. It's horrible," Chris Sanders with TEP said.

Tennessee is one of a dozen states with lawmakers backing restrictions on athletics or gender-confirming health care for trans minors this year.

RELATED: Reports: Pres. Biden to lift ban on transgender people serving in the military