BISMARCK — The main sponsor of a bill that would limit participation of transgender athletes in North Dakota has offered up amendments meant to ease concerns of youth sports and tourism advocates.

While one such advocate says they might make some difference, the legislation would still cause the state to lose out on some tournaments.

Charley Johnson, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he still intends to testify against the original bill, which passed in the House on Feb. 11.

“It’s a big risk nobody wants to take,” Johnson said.

House Bill 1298 would prevent athletes under 18 from competing in sports under any sex other than the one listed on their birth certificate, and would ban publicly owned facilities from hosting events in which transgender athletes might participate.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

It would also prevent entities that receive state funding from promoting such events.

The bill is scheduled to be heard before the Senate Judiciary committee at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 16.

Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, the bill’s main sponsor, offered a change that would allow sponsorship of such events by local destination marketing organizations, such as the CVB.

Another change would permit the state or an entity receiving public funding to rent or lease a facility for an event in which a transgender athlete might participate.

Johnson stands by his opposition to the initial intent of the bill because it “would turn off” sanctioning organizations and could have implications beyond youth sports.

Just last week, more than 500 student athletes nationwide signed a letter calling on the NCAA Board of Governors to only host championships in states that are "inclusive" to all athletes.

“If the NCAA strikes states with these kinds of laws, that’s a huge negative for everybody,” Johnson said.

Similar legislation is awaiting final approval in South Dakota.

Gov. Kristi Noem said last week she was “excited” to sign a bill prohibiting transgender girls from joining girls' teams, but took a more muted tone a few days later, saying her office was evaluating the bill.

Readers can reach Forum News Service reporter Robin Huebner at rhuebner@forumcomm.com