Senate passes bill protecting athletes’ religious expression

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COLUMBUS, OH (AP) — The Ohio Senate has approved legislation to protect athletes’ religious expression.

The bill was inspired by an Ohio teen disqualified from a cross-country race for wearing a hijab without a required waiver.

The measure passed unanimously Wednesday prohibits school sports regulators from requiring advance waivers or otherwise restricting participants’ religious apparel unless it causes a “legitimate danger.” 

Bill sponsor Sen. Theresa Gavarone researched the legislation based on the experience of Noor Abukaram, a suburban Toledo runner disqualified over her hijab in 2019.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association has since changed its rules to let referees approve such head coverings without a formal waiver.

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