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House passes bill to require high school athletes compete on the basis of their birth gender

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The North Dakota House has approved a measure that would prohibit transgender athletes from competing on teams that do not match their birth gender.

Supporters of the measure said it’s designed to protect girls from having to compete against boys who they say are physiologically stronger and faster than girls. They argued it strengthens the enforcement of Title IX of federal education standards, that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded activity.

"This is about girls competing with girls, insuring equal opportunity, and keeping a level playing field in girls' sports," said Rep. Kathy Skroch (R-Lidgerwood), a co-sponsor of the measure. "It upholds 50 years of progress in protecting women against discrimination, and advocates for the preservation of the biological base standards for female sports competitition."

Opponents said LGBTQ kids are often bullied at rates much higher than other kids. House Minority Leader Josh Boschee (D-Fargo) said the suicide rate among those kids is very high.

"Kids just want to participate in their school, and be active in their community," Boschee said. "They're not there to hurt anyone. High school athletics, junior high athletics -- it's about participation. It's about learning about yourself, and be part of a team, solving problems, figuring out life. But we're going to tell some kids, 'You can't.'"

The measure passed 65 to 27. It will now go to the Senate.