Alaska Legislature

Alaska House majority set on hearing doomed bill to limit transgender athletes in final days of legislative session

JUNEAU — With less than a week remaining until the end of Alaska’s legislative session, the House spent several hours this week — with more to come — debating a bill that is certain to be rejected by the Senate.

House Bill 183 would limit the participation of transgender girls in girls’ school sports teams. Its proponents say it’s a necessary move to protect girls from larger and stronger transgender athletes. Its opponents say it is an unnecessary — and potentially unconstitutional — attack on the rights of already marginalized transgender youths.

Rep. Craig Johnson, an Anchorage Republican who as chair of the Rules Committee has the power to decide which bills will be heard on the floor and when, said the bill was important because it sends the message that transgender women don’t belong in women’s sports.

Some House Democrats say they’ve been preparing for months for the bill to come up for a floor vote. In an effort to stall the vote on its passage, they have prepared dozens of amendments that could force another hours-long debate on the measure.

Under a regulation adopted last year by the state board of education — whose members were appointed by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy — transgender girls are already banned from competing alongside cisgender girls in high school sports. The bill in question, sponsored by Eagle River Republican Rep. Jamie Allard, would expand that prohibition to all school sports teams in Alaska and codify the ban in statute.

House members cumulatively spent more than four hours on the bill during a protracted floor session Thursday, before agreeing to table its consideration until Saturday morning. On Friday, Johnson again reiterated the House majority’s intention to pass the bill before the end of the session, despite its doomed fate in the Senate.

“We got way too many other things to deal with,” said Sen. Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat who chairs the Senate Rules Committee. “Zero likelihood it’s going to pass.”


Meanwhile, House minority members said they remained committed to filibustering the bill by proposing dozens of amendments if the bill is brought up again on the floor. On Thursday, lawmakers spent around two hours debating two amendments. Close to 100 amendments remain for possible consideration.

Several critical pieces of legislation remain unresolved, and lawmakers acknowledged that with a dwindling number of hours remaining before the May 15 deadline for the end of the session, every hour spent discussing the membership of women’s and girls’ sports teams is an hour taken away from debates on other legislation, including bills pertaining to the Cook Inlet gas shortage or related to the state’s education system.

“I’d rather be dealing with the Cook Inlet crisis, the education crisis,” Rep. Andy Josephson, an Anchorage Democrat, said on the House floor Thursday evening.

“I do wonder why we’re going through these amendments on a bill that’s dead on arrival,” said Rep. Zack Fields, another Anchorage Democrat.

Shortly after 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Rep. Bryce Edgmon, a Dillingham independent who caucuses with the majority, made a motion to table the bill until Sunday. After a nearly two-hour caucus meeting, lawmakers returned to the floor around 9:30 p.m. and agreed to table the bill until Saturday.

“I think it’s important that we send the message that we believe that we need to protect the rights of women,” Johnson said Friday.

Johnson blamed the drawn-out debate on the amendments proposed by minority members. Without those amendments, he said the legislation would quickly pass with support from House Republicans.

“The main thing I’ve heard is everyone supports the underlying bill,” said Johnson. “Some people want to make this a political issue here. I don’t think it’s that political. I think men should not be competing with women in women’s sports.”

If the filibuster attempt continues Saturday, Johnson said, “it’s going to be a long day.”

In a floor speech Friday, Rep. Dan Ortiz, a Ketchikan independent, asked, “Is this really what we need to be doing tomorrow?”

“When I think about the prospects of tomorrow’s floor session, I have an image in my mind from the movies that we’ve all seen where we have a bunch of folks who arrive on an open field,” said Ortiz. “They have swords, and they are ready to charge into battle.”

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Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The AP and Report for America and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at