West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) on Wednesday signed into law a bill that prohibits transgender male to female athletes from playing on women’s sports teams in public middle schools, high schools and universities, The Hill reports.
The bill cleared the state House last month in an overwhelming 78-20 vote before narrowly passing the state Senate in a 18-15 vote on April 8 which had added the college component.
The governor said at a briefing earlier this week that he would “proudly” sign the bill despite warnings from some lawmakers that the NCAA could retaliate and decide not to hold college tournaments in the state, according to reports.
At the briefing Justice said, “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.”
It’s the eighth Republican-backed bill signed this year that enacted restrictions on transgender athletes. A record 89 bills have been introduced so far in 2021 “targeting trans youth” as of April 20, according to the ACLU.
Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi have also enacted restrictions on transgender athletes, according to The Associated Press.
Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David denounced the West Virginia signing saying the ban affects transgender West Virginians and West Virginia communities as companies and groups oppose such laws.
“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.
The NCAA Board of Governors said earlier this month that the organization supports transgender college athletes and is committed to having events in states that are “safe, healthy and free of discrimination.”
“The NCAA has a long-standing policy that provides a more inclusive path for transgender participation in college sports,” the board said. “Our approach — which requires testosterone suppression treatment for transgender women to compete in women’s sports — embraces the evolving science on this issue and is anchored in participation policies of both the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student-athletes, including transgender athletes, at all levels of sport.”