CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia’s governor signed a bill Wednesday that bans transgender athletes from competing in female sports in middle and high schools and colleges.
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.”
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.
“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 American Civil Liberties Union’s West Virginia chapter said. It added in its statement: “ACLU-WV stands ready to intervene whenever and wherever this harmful law is enforced.”