Greg Gianforte
© Reuters
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte approved legislation Friday barring transgender youth from participating on sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.

Backed the Republican state lawmakers, the bill requires athletic teams at public schools to limit participation based on "biological sex." The measure also contains explicit language dictating that girls' or women's sports teams "may not be open to students of the male sex."

The bill generated a heated debate in Montana's GOP-controlled state legislature prior to its passage in April. Lawmakers eventually passed the bill alongside an amendment that would void the law if the government withheld federal funding in response to the ban and state efforts to appeal failed.

President Biden signed an executive order in January calling on public schools to allow transgender athletes to participate on sports teams that align with their gender identity. The order signaled that schools that do not comply could lose their federal funding under Title IX, which bars sex-based discrimination.

Montana is one of more than 20 states that have considered or already enacted legislation on transgender athlete participation in youth sports. Similar measures have passed in Mississippi and Tennessee, among other states.

The state bills have triggered a heated national debate. Critics of the legislation argue the laws are discriminatory, while proponents say they are meant to prevent unfair competition in girl's and women's sports.

In April, the NCAA suggested in a statement that it could remove championship events from states that pass laws limiting transgender athlete participation on sports teams.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.