West Virginia governor signs bill restricting transgender athletes
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) on Wednesday signed into law a bill that prohibits transgender female athletes from playing on women’s sports teams in public middle schools, high schools and universities.
The bill cleared the state House last month in an overwhelming 78-20 vote before passing the state Senate in a closer 18-15 vote on April 8 after its scope was expanded to cover colleges.
Justice signaled that he would sign the bill two weeks ago, saying at a briefing, “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… So, I do support the bill.”
The legislation, citing previous Supreme Court cases, writes that there are “inherent differences between biological males and biological females,” and later says “in the context of sports involving competitive skill or contact, biological males and biological females are not in fact similarly situated.”
West Virginia is one of a number of states that have enacted restrictions on transgender athletes, including Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi, according to The Associated Press.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) refused to sign similar legislation, but made the changes through executive order.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), meanwhile, has said that if the state legislature passes a bill banning transgender athletes from playing women’s sports, he will veto it.
Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David denounced the West Virginia signing.
“Gov. Justice nor the legislators who voted to pass the bill can name a single example of a transgender child trying to gain an unfair competitive advantage, which underscores that this is nothing more than a politically motivated bill for the sake of discrimination itself,” David wrote.
“By signing this cruel and discriminatory legislation, Gov. Jim Justice is not only hurting the health and safety of transgender children, but also West Virginians who will suffer the consequences of this law — including economic harm, expensive taxpayer-funded legal battles, and a tarnished reputation,” he added.
Last month, the National Collegiate Athletic Association came out in support of transgender college athletes, vowing to only hold championships at locations that are “safe, healthy and free of discrimination.”
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