The West Virginia Legislature passed a bill Friday night banning transgender middle school, high school and college girls and women from playing on women’s sports teams.
It now heads to Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican who coaches a girls basketball team, for his approval or veto.
The House of Delegates’ version of the bill passed March 25 affected only middle and high school sports under the supervision of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission. The SSAC regulates basketball, soccer, cross country and other sports.
The Senate expanded the legislation (House Bill 3293) to affect colleges and passed it 18-15 Thursday. A few Republicans, including the Senate majority leader and majority whip, cited fears about ramifications from the NCAA for their decision to peel off from the rest of the Republican supermajority and vote with all the present Democrats against the bill. Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, was absent.
On Friday, the House agreed in a voice vote, with multiple nos heard, to accept the Senate’s expansion of the legislation to affect colleges. The House then passed the bill 80-20, a slightly higher level of support for it than for its previous version.
House Education Committee Vice Chairman Joshua Higginbotham, R-Putnam, was the only Republican to vote no Friday. He was joined by 19 Democrats.
Four Democrats — Mick Bates, D-Raleigh; Brent Boggs, D-Braxton; Nathan Brown, D-Mingo; and Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel — voted with 76 Republicans for it.
During debate on the earlier version of the bill, Delegate Roger Conley, R-Wood, said, “to believe that there is a man that thinks they should be a woman, or a woman that thinks they should be a man, is saying that my God made a mistake.”
On Friday, he stood to speak for the Senate version, and said it has “nothing to do with discriminating against transgenders or LGBTQ folks.”
He expressed concern about his granddaughter getting “plowed over” on a basketball team by someone who is transgender and getting her leg broken.
“Folks, this is what our people want,” Conley said. “Our people don’t want us to be worried about what the NCAA wants, our people want us to be worried about what’s right.”
“Who am I to judge?” asked Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia. “I’m not perfect, I’m a sinner, I have my own biases, even my own prejudices. This bill has caused a lot of hurt for parents, and for children. In the state of West Virginia we have our first transgender city council member. I’m proud to call Rosemary Ketchum my friend, an inspiration to those children we stand to just throw away again.”
In a news release, Andrew Schneider, executive director of LGBTQ rights group Fairness West Virginia, said “our fight is not over.”
“We will continue fighting to defend transgender kids across West Virginia as long as it takes to defeat this extremely harmful bill,” he said. “It’s time for Gov. Jim Justice to join the numerous Republicans across the country to speak out against these targeted attacks. He needs to veto this bill as soon as it makes its way to his desk.”