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The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) decided Monday that transgender women—or female gender–identifying individuals who were assigned male sex at birth—may not compete in its collegiate women’s sports going forward, CBS Sports reports

The NAIA’s governing body oversees 249 small, mostly private colleges and their approximately 83,000 student athletes. It appears to be the first among collegiate athletic associations to implement such a rule.

“We know there are a lot of different opinions out there,” NAIA president Jim Carr told CBS Sports. “For us, we believed our first responsibility was to create fairness and competition in the NAIA ... We also think it aligns with the reasons Title IX was created. You’re allowed to have separate but equal opportunities for women to compete.”

In addition to banning trans women from competing on a team that matches their gender identity, the new policy also blocks trans men—or individuals who have begun “masculinizing hormone therapy”—from continuing to play on a women’s team. Male sports will remain open to any student athlete.

The decision follows both a December survey which indicated widespread support, as well as a unanimous 20-to-0 vote from its Council of Presidents. 

It does not, however, apply to the majority of the nation’s colleges or universities, which are overseen by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA). The NCAA has taken a “sport-by-sport” approach, allowing the national governing body of each sport to determine its own transgender policies.)

Still, despite the relatively small percentage of student athletes affected, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups have expressed disappointment.

“This is unacceptable and blatant discrimination that not only harms trans, nonbinary and intersex individuals, but limits the potential of all athletes,” Shiwali Patel, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center, told ESPN. “It’s important to recognize that these discriminatory policies don’t enhance fairness in competition. Instead, they send a message of exclusion and reinforce dangerous stereotypes that harm all women.”

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