West Virginia could be the next state to ban trans athletes from competing in school sports after an anti-trans bill passed through its state Senate.
The West Virginia Senate passed HB 3293 – a bill that would ban trans girls and women from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity – by an 18-15 vote on Thursday (8 April). The bill now heads back to the House to address changes made by the Senate.
The House passed a version of HB 3293 that focused on middle and high school athletics while the Senate version included a ban on trans athletes at the collegiate level. The two versions must be reconciled before going to Republican governor Jim Justice for approval.
Justice has not commented publicly on whether he would sign the bill into law if passed.
Patricia Rucker, chairwoman of the Senate education committee, said the Senate bill is intended to “protect” cisgender female athletes – a tired anti-trans argument invariably brought up when a ban on trans athletes is introduced. She told the Associated Press that the bill “isn’t against anyone”, but it’s instead a “policy of helping our girls, helping our women have the opportunity”.
Republican senator Amy Grady, who voted in favour of the bill, also tried to argue the anti-trans bill “does not discriminate”. She said: “It simply ensures that our female competitors will continue to have those protections, and it protects the integrity of women’s sports — for my girls, your girls and all the girls in West Virginia.”
Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, told the Los Angeles Blade trans kids across the state “deserve love, support, and the chance to fully participate in the sport they love”. He added the organisation will “continue standing up for them every day”.
“Senators have unfortunately made this bad bill even worse by extending the transgender athlete ban to cover colleges and universities without any regard for how that could affect West Virginia University’s standing with the NCAA,” Schneider said. “This bill is bad for business, it’s bad for our state’s image and it’s bad for kids who are just looking to belong.”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has condemned efforts to discriminate against trans athletes. In a letter to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), NCAA president Mark Emmert claimed the association is “concerned” about legislation introduced in more than 30 states seeking to bar trans athletes from competing in school sports teams that align with their gender identity.
Emmert said these proposals are “harmful to transgender student-athletes” and said they conflict “with the NCAA’s core values of inclusivity, respect and the equitable treatment of all individuals”.
But Emmert did not commit to taking action against states that pass anti-trans sports bills. Although, he promised the NCAA “continues to closely monitor” the situation.
“It is our clear expectation that all NCAA student-athletes will be welcomed, treated with respect and have non-discriminatory participation wherever they compete,” Emmert said. “We are committed to upholding these principles and will continue to assess emerging laws to ensure student-athletes have fair opportunities.”