Emily Rice Published

Justice Promotes Bill To Define ‘Woman’ In State Code

A man sits at a table with two women in red blazers. "Stand For Women" is seen on a sign at the front of the table.
Gov. Jim Justice holds a press conference with Independent Women's Voice.
Independent Women's Voice YouTube Channel

A piece of legislation introduced on Jan. 26, 2024, aims to define sex-based terms used in state law.

In a Monday press conference, Gov. Jim Justice promoted House Bill 5243 alongside representatives from the Independent Women’s Law Center and Independent Women’s Voice.

The bill is called the “West Virginia Women’s Bill of Rights” or “The West Virginia Act to Define Sex-Based Terms Used in State Law, Help Protect Single Sex Spaces, and Ensure the Accuracy of Public Data Collection.”

“What we’re basically saying is, that women are women, and women are really important,” Justice said.

Riley Gaines is an ambassador for Independent Women’s Voice. She described her experience swimming on a team with a transgender female as “violating and betrayal.”

“We as female athletes, female swimmers, we watched on the side of the pool as this mediocre male swam to a national title beating up the most impressive and accomplished female swimmers this nation and world really has ever seen including Olympians, American record holders,” Gaines said.

May Mailman is the director of the Independent Women’s Law Center. She said allowing for interpretation of the word “woman” in the law is offensive.

“Judges, bureaucrats, sports bodies and other elites seemed not to know that women existed at all, they equated us to a state of mind,” Mailman said. “Identification replaced the biology, biological reality that we have been living our entire lives.”

Isabella Cortez is the Gender Policy Manager for Fairness West Virginia, a statewide civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to fair treatment and civil rights for LGBTQ+ West Virginians.

“It’s offensive to introduce a bill called the Women’s Bill of Rights when the bill does nothing to support women,” Cortez said. “It doesn’t give women any new rights, and it doesn’t do anything to protect the rights that women already have.”

Cortez said out-of-state lobbyists drafted the bill.

“Our lawmakers should not trust this group, the so-called Independent Women’s Voice, because there’s nothing independent about what they do,” Cortez said. “They take money from the Koch brothers and they use that dark money to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, oppose the Paycheck Fairness Act, and also downplay the overturning of Roe v. Wade.”

Cortez said the bill aims to ban transgender people from using the bathroom that aligns with their identity in public spaces.

“There is simply no evidence that allowing transgender people to use restrooms that align with their gender identity increases, you know, risks, or danger or poses any safety risks,” Cortez said.

Cortez said she and Fairness West Virginia want transgender West Virginians to know that they will not stop fighting for them.

“We know things are scary right now, but you are seen you are loved,” Cortez said. “We will do everything that we can to keep you safe and to keep you protected in this state.”

House Bill 5243 is being considered by the House Judiciary Committee.