Sign opposing HB 2706 Sign Opposing HB 2706|Photo by Jessica Swarner

As HB 2706 gains momentum in the House, LGTBQ advocates continue to push back. 

Thursday morning, a few dozen activists against a bill that would ban transgender athletes from playing on women’s and girls’ sports teams met at the state Capitol to voice their opposition. 

“This bill harkens back to the old days of Arizona’s Legislature, a Russell Pearce Arizona that passed SB 1070, a hate state,” Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, said at the event. “Arizona is no longer that.” 

House Bill 2706 gained momentum the previous day when the Rules Committee approved it 5-3. The House Health and Human Services Committee had voted 5-4 in favor of it two weeks prior.

Hernandez, the chairman of the House LGBTQ Caucus, said the bill is in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. 

He also said when he met with the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA), the regulatory body of the state’s public high school sports, they told him fewer than 15 transgender athletes had asked to play on the team that aligned with their gender in the past decade. AIA Executive Director Joe Paddock told The Copper Courier that, based on the information he had, that number “sounds accurate.”

Under the AIA’s policy, students who wish to be on a gender-specific team different from the sex they were assigned at birth must get approval from the regulator. Students making an appeal to the AIA must submit letters of support from their parent or guardian, a school administrator, and a healthcare provider. 

“So there are already rules in place to make sure that this is not a problem in Arizona,” Hernandez said. “And when we talk to the bill’s sponsor, when we talk to the organizations that are pushing this, every example that they use is from another state that does not have the kind of rules and policies that we already have in place in Arizona.” 

One of the legislation’s backers, the Center for Arizona Policy, cites Connecticut as a state where problems have arisen. 

“Since 2017, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) has allowed biological males who identify as girls to compete in high school women’s sports,” the conservative think tank says on its website. “Girls like, Selina Soule and Alanna Smith— high school track athletes— are automatically at a disadvantage. Male athletes who identity [sic] as female have won race after race, collecting state titles along the way.”

The Copper Courier reached out to the Center for Arizona Policy to request comment on possible similar instances in the state; however, the agency did not immediately respond.

As the bill makes it way to a potential House vote, activists are continuing to build up the number of voices opposing it.

Phoenix nonprofit One Community announced Wednesday that a coalition of more than 150 local businesses, including the Arizona Diamondbacks and Arizona School Boards Association, have signed on to oppose the bill. 

“[They are] very aware of the real, incredible damage it will do to our state’s branding, and to the opportunity to really attract top talent,” Angela Hughey, co-founder and president of the organization, said at the press conference. 

Other speakers focused on the personal effects the bill would have on their families. 

“This bill will harm and traumatize all girls. You know it, and we know it,” the mother of a transgender child said at the event. “Our kids, their bodies, their medical records, are none of your business.”

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego added her voice to the dissent Thursday. She said on Twitter that the bill “is not reflective of Arizona’s values.”

“Taking part in scholastic athletics is about more than just building character; it teaches an individual how to reach goals as a team, and how to work with people from every walk of life,” Gallego said. “It is discriminatory and wrong to prevent student athletes from experiencing this opportunity because of their gender identity.”