ST. PAUL — Minnesota senators on Wednesday, Feb. 3, took up a plan to block transgender girls from participating in school sporting activities designated for girls and women, a move the bill's opponents called "unconstitutional and just plain wrong."

The Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee discussed and set aside the bill after a female powerlifter and medical director for U.S.A. Powerlifting stood to support it, while a transgender athlete stood to oppose it. Powerlifting is not an activity offered through the Minnesota State High School League.

If approved, the bill would prevent transgender students who identify as female from participating in school sports or activities for women and girls. Supporters said it was crucial to maintain athletic competition between women and girls whose gender matched their biological sex at birth. They said failing to do so could create an unfair advantage.

"It's amazing to see how far we have come and the opportunities available today and it's something I think that we should fight for," the bill's author Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, said. "If we continue to allow biological males to play on girls' sports teams, we'll no longer have female athletes."

Opponents, including transgender Minnesotans and advocates, meanwhile, said the measure was unfairly targeted at transgender students and would likely draw legal challenges for running afoul of the Constitution and Title IX. The provision states that a person can't be denied the ability to participate in an academic activity on the basis of sex.

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"It's unconstitutional and just plain wrong," Skye Vang, a representative of Outfront Minnesota, told the panel. "I'm a trans athlete, and my inclusion in sports has allowed me to connect and build deeper relationships with myself and my peers. ... Trans women don't pose a threat to women's sports because, at the end of the day, trans women are women. Policing bodies of those who are 'women enough' is where the harm stands."

Ruud said lawmakers ought to continue discussing the bill since other state Legislatures have taken up the topic.

Democrats on the committee said the bill could cause enforcement questions around determining a student's biological sex and likely be upheld in the courts as discriminatory.

"When we say horrible things really nicely, that doesn't make it any better, just because it's polite. And that's what this bill is. It's a horrible bill being presented very nicely," Sen. Jason Isaacson, D-Shoreview, said. "To think we're going to come back and tell trans girls or trans boys that they're not what they say they are, that's unacceptable. That's not who we are and that is not the way Title IX is supposed to be used."

The measure could up in the committee at a later date.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com