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Bill Barring Transgender Students from Certain School Sports To Become Law in West Virginia

Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday that he will not veto a bill that will bar transgender student-athletes from playing women’s sports. (Photo Courtesy of W.Va. Governor’s Office)

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice stood by statements made over the weekend that he would not veto a bill aimed at transgender student-athletes wishing to play women’s sports even as the NCAA made clear it would avoid states that discriminate.

Speaking Wednesday during his COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol, Justice said he would either sign House Bill 3293, relating to single-sex participation in interscholastic athletic events, or let the bill become law without his signature.

“From the standpoint of how I feel about it personally and everything … I just can’t possibly get through my head that it is the right thing for us at a middle school-level, a high school-level and our state for me not to support the bill, so I do support the bill,” Justice said. “I’m either going to let it become law or sign it. I am absolutely not supportive of a veto in regard to the bill.”

Justice’s statement was similar to comments he provided reporters Saturday night on the last day of the 2021 legislative session.

HB 3293 requires student-athletes in middle school, high school or college to participate in sports that match their biological sex based on the student’s sex at the time of their birth. The bill was amended to target specifically women’s sports, declaring athletic teams designated for females “shall not be open to students of the male sex.” The bill does not apply to men’s sports or coed sports.

The bill would apply to sports regulated by the NCAA, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics or the National Junior College Athletic Association. The bill requires the West Virginia Board of Education, the West Virginia Schools Secondary Activities Commission and the Higher Education Policy Commission/West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education to create rules for implementing HB 3293.

On Monday, the NCAA Board of Governors released a statement in support of transgender student-athletes, declaring that the board would reconsider scheduling tournaments in states that curtail the ability of transgender student-athletes to participate in sports. The NCAA allows biological men transitioning to women to play in college sports if they use testosterone suppression treatments.

“When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected,” the board stated. “We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants.”

The original version of HB 3293 as passed by the House of Delegates only targeted middle and high school athletics. The Senate added college sports to the bill.

Justice acknowledged the bill as passed by the Legislature could hurt the state, but as a high school girls basketball coach, he believes the positive outweighs the negative.

“The addition of the college aspect could cause some ramifications,” Justice said. “Even at the college level, I support the bill there as well,” Justice said. “The NCAA has moved to a more political-correct and liberal body and they could very well penalize us in West Virginia.”

Opponents of the bill, such as LGBTQ advocacy organization Fairness West Virginia, are still hopeful they can persuade Justice to veto the bill. The governor has 15 days from the time he receives a bill to either sign or veto a bill once the Legislature adjourns. HB 3293 completed legislative action last Friday.

“Our fight is not over,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia. “We will continue fighting to defend transgender kids across West Virginia as long as it takes to defeat this extremely harmful bill. 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.”

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