Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a flurry of bills into law on Wednesday, including one that protects female athletes in high school and college from competing against biological men who are living as transgender women.
The new law is similar to legislation in over half of states seeking to preserve the protections under Title IX, a federal statute that prohibits discrimination against women based on their biological sex, the Associated Press reported:
The bill was among 38 signed by Republican Gov. Jim Justice. It had narrowly passed the state Senate, which had added the college component, before being overwhelmingly approved in the House of Delegates. Justice said 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.
Last month, hundreds of college athletes signed a letter to the NCAA Board of Governors asking the organization to refuse to schedule championships in states that have banned transgender athlete participation in sports. The NCAA in 2016 moved championships out of North Carolina in response to a bill legislating transgender people’s use of public restrooms.
“It concerns me that we may miss out on a really important sporting event or something like that that could come to West Virginia,” Justice said. “However, I think the benefits of it way outweigh the bad part of it.”
The AP report continued:
Bills seeking to ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ sports teams in public schools also have been enacted this year in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi, while South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has implemented the move by executive order.
Critics, including the left-wing American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), called the law “cruel.”
“We regret the governor has signed this cruel and unlawful bill after refusing to meet with young transgender West Virginians and their family members,” the ACLU’s West Virginia chapter said in a statement.
“ACLU-WV stands ready to intervene whenever and wherever this harmful law is enforced,” the statement said.
Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, an LGBT advocacy group, said on Wednesday, “Transgender children are worthy of love and support. They deserve the chance to learn and grow in the classroom and on the field.”
A 2017 Williams Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles law school study estimated that West Virginia has the highest percentage (1.04 percent) of residents ages 13 to 17 among all states who identified as transgender, the AP reported.
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