We Asked Candidates: Should Transgender Athletes Be Barred From Girls Sports?

How Utah’s ban would fare under Oregon’s leading candidates for governor.

For years, Democratic control of all branches of Oregon government has made hot-button social issues into debates that happen elsewhere. But the culture wars aren’t so far away—geographically or spiritually.

Last month, the Utah Legislature passed a bill barring transgender athletes from participating in girls sports. As he vetoed the bill, the state’s Republican governor, Spencer Cox, issued a striking statement that attempted to appeal to reason.

Of Utah’s 75,000 high school athletes, he said, only four transgender kids play—just one of them in girls sports. “Four kids who are trying to find some friends and feel like they are part of something,” Cox wrote. “Four kids who are trying to get through each day. Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few….I hope that we can work to find ways to show these four kids we love them and they have a place in our state.”

His veto was swiftly overturned. But WW wondered if there was similar moral courage among the leading candidates for governor in Oregon. Here’s what we found.

WW asked: Do you support or oppose legislation that would ban transgender athletes from participating in girls sports, as passed in Utah?

SUPPORT

Bridget Barton (R)

As a former three-sport varsity athlete with a daughter who played volleyball and basketball, I know that women have worked too hard to gain equal footing in sports. People who are born as women need to compete as women, and people born as men need to compete as men in order to save women’s sports.

Christine Drazan (R)

We need to respect the dignity of every individual, but that does not mean we should accept that biological males competing in women’s sports is fair or appropriate. Women have fought for—and earned— respect and support for themselves in sports and have made incredible gains in doing so. We must defend that progress and stand up for fairness.

Betsy Johnson (unaffiliated)

I don’t believe it’s fair to force female athletes to compete against biological men. Sports should be about fair competition, not social engineering.

Stan Pulliam (R)

Fairness matters. As the father of two girls, I’m outraged that second has become the new first. As governor, I will enact protections for girls to ensure they have the opportunity to play in girls sports.

Bob Tiernan (R)

It is unfair to allow transgender athletes to compete in women’s events.

OPPOSE

Tina Kotek (D)

I believe in supporting all children to be their authentic selves. Unfortunately, some politicians are racing to stigmatize vulnerable trans kids in order to divide people and distract us from real issues. When we talk about our trans community, we should be talking about how to prevent assaults on trans people, especially trans women of color, who are more likely to be assaulted. While other politicians work to bring harm to the LGBTQ+ community, I’m going to focus on the work that matters: ensuring all Oregonians are safe and protected.

Tobias Read (D)

Let’s be honest, these Republican proposals have nothing to do with parents’ rights, education theory, or what’s in the best interest of kids. These measures are about fueling culture wars, cynically winning elections, and beating up on vulnerable Oregonians. We should be talking about bringing down the cost of child care, creating pre-K classes for every child, and increasing our graduation rates, instead of trying to divide Oregonians against each other.

DIDN’T ANSWER

Dr. Bud Pierce (R)