Female athletes, lawmakers organize against Biden plans to redefine 'sex,' erase campus due process

College volleyball player says she lives in fear of the NCAA "and the power that they have over me because of my scholarship."
Volleyball player Kylee McLaughlin originally played for Oregon State

Fifty years after the passage of Title IX, the Biden administration faces an uphill nationwide battle as it tries to rewrite the sex discrimination law around gender identity and remove the Trump administration's due process protections in campus sexual misconduct proceedings.

Female athletes told "Just the News, Not Noise" about their grassroots protest and the risk of cancellation they face. Lawmakers shared legislative strategies, and an attorney general promised litigation if administrative hurdles don't do the job.

The dominance of University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, the first openly transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division 1 national championship, has spurred much of the activism.

Women for Fairness in Sports (WomenFINS) President Marshi Smith said its March letter to the NCAA Board of Governors on behalf of University of Arizona swimming alumni is now up to 44 signatures.

Smith said she had been "on the phone probably for a month straight, day and night," organizing support for WomenFINs, which is hosting its own 50th anniversary Title IX event June 27 in Las Vegas.

The national champion and 2006 graduate said she had been "living with a sense of denial throughout the season" before seeing Thomas on the women's podium at the national championship.

"There's been so much wreckage on the path to this victory by Lia Thomas," thwarting the "lifelong ambition and dream" for thousands of women competing for around 30 slots at this "very elite level swim championship," Smith said. 

Young Women for America ambassadors Chloe Satterfield and Macy Petty helped organize a "Save Women's Sports" rally outside the Georgia Tech competition where Thomas made NCAA history.

People fear they will "destroy their futures if they speak out about this," Satterfield said. Swimmers' family members came out of the venue "in tears" and thanked them for speaking up, because "it feels like there's nobody fighting for us."

The swimmers "knew they lost before they even walked in ... despite probably 10, 15 years of hard work for this very day," Petty said, noting Thomas went from 462nd in men's swimming to first in women's. 

Satterfield, a four-year high school tennis player, lost to a transgender girl in a match a few years ago. It quickly became clear the "thousands of dollars" her family spent on her training were no match for the opponent's biology-based speed and agility, Satterfield said. "They know what they're doing isn't right."

A college volleyball player, Petty said she is "very scared of the NCAA and the power that they have over me because of my scholarship."

Her conditioning tests, weight and speed training and dietary changes are no match for transgender women, whose "vertical is so much higher than mine, just because of biology" and who are competing on a net seven inches shorter than a men's net.

"It's not as scary as that looks" to testify in favor of "save women's sports" legislation, as she did in South Carolina and Tennessee, especially with organizational support, Petty said. 

The Heritage Foundation's Sarah Parshall Perry worked on both Title IX interpretive guidance after the Supreme Court's Bostock ruling on gender identity and the due process rulemaking in Trump's Department of Education.

The Biden administration's planned reversal of both is a "craven political attempt to garner capital" ahead of an anticipated midterm "bloodbath," she said. Neither drew "any criticism whatsoever that there were particular problems" following implementation, an issue she raised in Office of Management and Budget (OMB) meetings.

The department has not even tried to justify "such a significant overhaul on two different aspects of Title IX," which "actually complicates the waters on something that's been working very, very well for 50 years."

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who led a coalition of 15 AGs opposing Biden's campus sexual misconduct review, said the the current administration wants to gut the first-of-its-kind rulemaking and return to the Obama administration protocol devised by then-Vice President Biden.

Knudsen gave the hypothetical of the White House telling every criminal prosecutor to withhold lawyers from the accused and make them the "judge and jury," which is "exactly what the Obama administration did under Title IX."

The planned redefinition of "sex" in Title IX is more consequential, Perry said. "If we're not able to slow it down or stop it" during OMB review, opponents can flood the public comment portal and "force this administration to reconsider."

Montana will "certainly" go to court to challenge either revision, Knudsen said. The gender identity rule will be "a real hindrance to women's sports" and also has "serious implications" for K-12 education.

He said Biden has "singlehandedly been the best proponent for school choice in this country that we've had in probably 30 years."

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn extolled the professional and Olympic careers and team-building skills enabled by Title IX that Biden's plans would end. Thousands of young girls in the state are "shooting hooks" because they want to play for the Lady Vols.

Blackburn recently talked to swimmer Riley Gaines, who was denied a trophy in a tie with Thomas, and shared the "sense of disappointment" the swimmer felt at this slight. The senator warned that watering down Title IX could result in "a women's lacrosse team that ends up being made up of biological males."

The Kansas Senate overrode Gov. Laura Kelly's vetoes of the Fairness in Women's Sports Act and Parents Bill of Rights, and sponsor Sen. Renee Erickson said she's now focused on House overrides. 

The hostility to parental rights in curriculum and sex-based rights has been slowly evolving, she believes. "It sounds very reasonable how they frame it," she said, but parents now see "their authority is being usurped by the public school system."

She credited the veto override, which failed last year, to the transparency afforded by pandemic-driven remote education. It shows "we might lose it one day, but we'll come back and we'll be successful the next."