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Oregon LGBTQ+ organization calls Republican lawmakers ‘reckless’ for naming trans student

The Oregon state capitol building in an OPB file photo from 2017.
FILE: The Oregon state capitol building in 2017.

Republican lawmakers and several media outlets named a Portland high school student athlete this week, saying the student shouldn't be permitted to participate in girls sports because of their gender identity.

Conservative pundits and legislators are raising objections to Oregon rules governing student-athletes who are trans, after a Portland high school track athlete placed among the top finishers at a recent girls’ race in Sherwood last week.

Basic Rights Oregon issued a statement Friday calling out 12 Oregon Republican lawmakers for naming the high school student-athlete in a letter to the Oregon School Activities Association earlier this week.

“We reject the attempts to manufacture hateful hysteria by some in power in our state government,” read the statement from BRO, a statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

“We know that Oregonians support and accept people in our communities, regardless of who they are, what they look like, or how they identify. We need to support our kids — not deny them the freedom to be their true selves.”

BRO officials called the lawmakers’ behavior “reckless and cruel,” and urged them to focus instead on issues like paid family leave and the availability of child care.

The minor student’s name, high school, and grade have been shared in national and regional news stories this week. Tuesday, 12 female Oregon senators and state representatives sent a letter to Peter Weber, OSAA’s executive director.

In the letter, the legislators claimed that OSAA’s policy on participation in sports based on gender identity and expression has “sparked outrage.” They say the high school student should not have participated in girls’ sports because the student is transgender.

OSAA’s policy, dated winter 2019, says the organization allows “students to participate for the athletic or activity program of their consistently asserted gender identity while providing a fair and safe environment for all students,” and that the rule “promotes harmony and fair competition” among schools.

The lawmakers said they will push for legislative change in the 2025 session to remove records set by trans students participating in girls’ sports.

OSAA executive director Peter Weber responded to lawmakers Thursday, saying the agency’s policies are in line with the state legislature and Oregon Department of Education policies to prohibit discrimination — including on the basis of gender identity.

“The OSAA, under the guidance of our member schools, creates and implements policies that comply with federal and state laws, including laws that are intended to keep our students safe and free from discrimination,” Weber said in the letter.

Weber said OSAA has been in contact with the student’s school about safety measure for future events.

Several states have passed legislation to ban trans students from competing in sports that align with their gender identity. Other sports organization, have also grappled with regulations governing trans athletes, including the International Olympic Committee, which released updated guidance in January.

In the past, right wing media outlets have zeroed in on Oregon, responding negatively to examples of schools supporting certain groups of students, including in Newberg and Tigard-Tualatin school districts.

But Oregon education policies remain overwhelmingly supportive of students’ gender identities. In the past, the state department of education has shared resources with school leaders about supporting LGBTQ+ students in the classroom.

Copyright 2024 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Elizabeth Miller is a JPR content partner from Oregon Public Broadcasting. Elizabeth is an Ohio native and a graduate of Baldwin Wallace University.