West Virginia became the latest state to pass a bill that would ban transgender people from competing in female middle school, high school, and college sports.
The bill narrowly got through the state senate with a 18-15 vote. It will now go back to the House of Delegates to address changes with just a few days left in the session.
Governor Jim Justice plans to sign the bill.
West Virginia is one of more than 20 states whose legislatures are pushing similar reforms. Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee are the only states so far who’s governors have signed similar bills into law.
South Dakota passed a bill but Gov. Kristi Noem issued several executive orders to weaken it.
Idaho was the first to produce and pass its own bill in 2020.
Transgender athlete bills come on the heels of several incidents, including a case in Connecticut where a pair of biological males won several races in a girls’ state track meet.
West Virginia Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Patricia Rucker said the bill is not about discrimination but about safety. “This isn’t against anyone. It is for the policy of helping our girls, helping our women have the opportunity,” Rucker told the Associated Press.
Sen. Amy Grady, a Mason County Republican, echoed that sentiment. “It protects the integrity of women’s sports — for my girls, your girls and all the girls in West Virginia,” she said.
The bill also had plenty of opponents, most saying it will hurt the state’s ability to keep young people within its borders.
“When’s the last time you sat down and talked to the young people in this state? They want a more inclusive society,” said Marion County Democrat Mike Caputo.
“My kids don’t give a rat’s behind what color you are, what your sexual orientation is, what you do in your personal life. The youth of today want to put this behind us.”
The one thing both sides could agree on was the college element to the bill. The NCAA is threatening to pull events from any state that does not support what it termed a “safe atmosphere free of discrimination.”
West Virginia, and several other states, could be affected. The college athletic organization in 2016 moved the several games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament out of North Carolina due to its transgender bathroom bill.
There are still several bills in the works, including in Georgia. With just a few days left for many states to pass and sign these bills into law and opposition continuing to grow, it’s many will be tabled until 2022.
In addition, lawsuits are piling up in many states, a process which could tie them up in the courts for many years to come.