HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/WHTM) — A Republican proposal to prevent transgender girls from competing in girls’ school sports passed the Pennsylvania House Education Committee on Tuesday, over Democratic opposition.

The 15-9 party-line vote advanced the “Save Women’s Sports Act” bill so it can be considered by the GOP-majority chamber. It would restrict players to male or female teams based on their reproductive organs, biology, or genetics at birth.

The bill says athletic teams designated for women or girls may not be open to “students of the male sex,” and would give students and schools a route to sue if they feel harmed by violations of that rule. It covers K-12 school teams, college sports, intramurals, and club teams sponsored by school entities.

Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here

“Today I felt so disgusted that the leaders of my state would make such false claims against the trans community,” said Lily Freeman, a transgender high school student in Bucks County.

Cisgender track athlete Olivia Heim says in sports each athlete has their own talents and shouldn’t be punished for them.

“Even if they are another cisgender woman and they’re taller than me, that’s technically considered an advantage because they have a longer stride when running, but there’s all sorts of things that provide everyone advantages of opportunity, experiences that not everyone gets to have, that it makes it unfair to single out trans women for just one thing,” Heim said.

Others say this bill will help protect women’s sports and their athletes.

“This actually helps everybody regardless of their gender identity because what it does is recognizes that identities are not the ones playing sports, bodies are, and so we have better fair play for everyone when we separate sports based off biological sex,” Alexis Sneller with the Pennsylvania Family Insitute said.

“No one should be forcing biological females to compete against biological males,” said bill cosponsor Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia, before the vote. “It is patently wrong and unfair.”

In a co-sponsorship memo issued early a year ago, White and four other Republican women in the House argued that “allowing biological males to complete in girls sports” reverses some five decades of advancement toward equal athletic opportunities for women.

Republican governors in Utah and Indiana this month vetoed legislation to ban transgender players from girls’ sports, as the chief executives said bans address a problem that is virtually nonexistent in their states and a distraction to broader efforts toward a conservative agenda.

Recent focus on the issue has been on University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a trans woman who won a title at the national NCAA Women’s Division I championship nearly two weeks ago.

Rep. Mary Isaacson of Philadelphia, a Democrat on the committee, said athletes’ eligibility should be addressed by their sports’ governing bodies.

“We’re sticking our nose in and trying to impose how we feel — apparently some of you feel — women should be treated,” Isaacson said. “I think all women should be lifted up and supported, regardless of what others might deem them to be. And I know this bill only attacks women, and trans girls specifically. I’m not in the business of going after our gender.”

The NCAA has a sport-by-sport policy that sets transgender participation by the national governing body of that sport, subject to review by its Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association leaves decisions about transgender athletes to their principals.

“Where a student’s gender is questioned or uncertain, the decision of the principal as to the student’s gender will be accepted by PIAA,” the association says.

Similar bills are gaining attention across the nation. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law, which bans instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary schools.

“We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination,” DeSantis said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.