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West Virginia governor signs anti-trans law as ACLU threatens lawsuit

A gavel and a rainbow bookmark in a law book
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On Wednesday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) officially made it illegal in the state for transgender girls to participate in girls sports.

Justice signed H.B. 3293, which says that in public schools all the way up to the collegiate level, the sports team on which a student plays must “be based on the biological sex of the athlete at birth.”

Related: North Dakota’s governor surprises everyone by vetoing anti-trans bill

Two weeks ago, Justice spoke of his support of the bill at a press conference.

“From the standpoint of how I feel about it personally … I just can’t possibly get through my head that it is the right thing for us at a middle school level or a high school level in our state for me not to support the bill… So, I do support the bill,” he said.

After Justice signed the bill, the ACLU tweeted: “We will see West Virginia in court.”

The bill claims that transgender girls participating in sports as their gender would make competitions inherently unfair, despite experts continuing to speak out against such bills.

While Republicans continue to say that transgender girls participating in school sports will spell the end to cisgender girls participating in sports, quite a few states have allowed trans girls to compete without these dire consequences materializing. Many advocates of these bills can’t even say whether there even are transgender student-athletes in their states, while trans students and their parents have stressed the educational and social benefits of school sports instead.

In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David harshly condemned the new law.

“Transgender children are children,” David said. “They deserve the ability to play organized sports and be part of a team, just like all children. Gov. Justice nor the legislators who voted to pass the bill can name a single example of a transgender child trying to gain an unfair competitive advantage, which underscores that this is nothing more than a politically motivated bill for the sake of discrimination itself.”

David added that West Virginia will also suffer “economic harm, expensive taxpayer-funded legal battles, and a tarnished reputation” as a result of this bill.

Sam Brinton, Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs at LGBTQ suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project, called this “an all-hands-on-deck moment.”

“Six states have now implemented anti-trans sports bans,” Brinton said, “and we know it’s not because they care about ‘fairness’ in women’s sports. Lawmakers are sending a clear message that they don’t value trans lives and would prefer we did not exist entirely.”

Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Alabama, and Arkansas have all adopted similar laws to prevent transgender girls from playing sports as their gender.

While some anti-trans bills have failed around the country, Republican lawmakers in over thirty states continue to target transgender youth in bills seeking to limit their participation in sports as well as criminalize their medical care.

In Texas, for example, families are terrified of a bill seeking to remove transgender kids from families who affirm them. The horrific bill calls parents who support their transgender children child abusers.

And in Arkansas, the legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of a bill banning transgender youth from receiving gender affirming care.

ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, who has been fighting anti-trans bills across the country, tweeted yesterday, “These kids are being brutalized.”

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