LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In a Thursday news conference, Gov. Asa Hutchinson made his, and his administration’s, position on transgender inclusion clear.
Hutchinson said the changes to Title IX currently proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden to include transgender inclusion were unacceptable. The change would interfere with Arkansas non-discrimination laws, Hutchinson said.
“This [the proposed changes] would interfere with Arkansas law, it would interfere with common sense, and it would interfere with local control [of schools],” Hutchinson said. “Specifically, it would impact our ability to prohibit biological males from competing in girls’ sports.”
The Biden proposed change was counter to the Trump administration’s decision to overturn earlier transgender inclusion recommendations, Hutchinson said. The original transgender inclusion was a recommendation, not a law, made under the Obama administration, he said.
At issue is not just the position on transgender athletes, but state law, the governor said.
Hutchinson had signed Senate Bill 354 in March 2021, which prohibited transgender athletes from participation in female sports programs. If the proposed Title IX changes were put in place, that would force Arkansas to conflict with the law he signed, Hutchinson said.
The proposed changes to the federal law, in conflict with state law, placed him in opposition, Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson continued that conflict with federal law would lead to schools losing federal funding, while conflict with state law could end state funding. He used funding for school meals as an example of a program that could be affected.
Hutchinson thanked Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for her opposition to the proposed changes. Rutledge had joined with other state attorney generals in opposition to the proposed changes, signing a letter sent to President Biden.
Hutchinson introduced Rutledge who also clarified her opposition to Title IX changes.
Rutledge used the example of NCAA transgender athlete Lia Thomas and her success in swimming as an example of what transgender inclusion would bring to college sports.
“I don’t want my daughter or any other daughter to not have the opportunity to compete and succeed,” Rutledge said.
Responding to questions, Hutchinson said the hope was the letters signed by the attorney generals was enough for the administration to withdraw its proposed Title IX changes. He indicated if the changes did become law, his administration would not follow them.
“We’re not adjusting our guidance to them,” Hutchinson said.