State Watch

West Virginia governor plans to sign bill restricting transgender athletes

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West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) on Wednesday confirmed his intention to sign a new bill that would prevent transgender middle and high school athletes from participating in team sports that match their gender identity. 

During a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, Justice commented on the bill approved by the Republican-dominated state legislature last week, saying that he would “let it become law or sign it,” and that he was “absolutely not” in support of vetoing the measure, one of several pieces of anti-transgender legislation advancing in GOP-led states.

“From the standpoint of how I feel about it personally … I just can’t possibly get through my head that it is the right thing for us at a middle school level or a high school level in our state for me not to support the bill,” Justice explained. “So, I do support the bill.” 

The legislation, in addition to limiting participation for transgender athletes, would also require students to provide a birth certificate upon admission to a public school indicating the person’s sex at birth. 

The state Senate passed a version last week that would expand the bill to also apply to sports at public colleges in the state, though Justice said Wednesday that this could lead the NCAA to “penalize us in West Virginia.”

“We could come back into a special session and retroactively look back at it,” he said. 

The NCAA on Monday released a statement pledging not to host college championships in states with laws that discriminate against transgender athletes. 

“This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition,” the NCAA said in its statement. “Our clear expectation as the Association’s top governing body is that all student-athletes will be treated with dignity and respect.” 

“We are committed to ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them,” the organization added. 

West Virginia would be the fourth state this year to institute new restrictions on transgender athletes, following Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. 

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) late last month killed a similar bill barring transgender athletes from women’s sports, though she later issued executive orders effectively carrying out the ban. 

Florida’s state House on Wednesday passed a bill that would ban transgender female athletes from joining women’s public school and college sports teams.

The Florida bill, which aims to “promote sex equality by requiring the designation of separate sex-specific athletic teams or sports,” now moves to the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Tags anti-transgender Arkansas Florida Jim Justice Kristi Noem LGBTQ Mississippi NCAA Tennessee transgender athlete ban transgender athletes Transgender inequality transgender rights West Virginia

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