Liz McCormick Published

W.Va. Senate Education Committee Rewrites House’s Transgender Athlete Bill

Senate Education Chair Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, speaks during a meeting of the Senate Education Committee on April 1, 2021.

A bill restricting transgender student athletes has cleared the Senate Education Committee — but not without some big changes from the House’s version.

HB 3293, as it came over from the House, would have required students to provide a birth certificate or complete a physical exam with a physician to participate in any single-sex sport, like track or basketball.

The intent was to require students who identify as transgender to compete on teams that match their biological sex.

While the Senate Education Committee agreed to advance the bill, their strike-and-insert version no longer bars transgender athletes from participating in sports by requiring these things.

Instead, the bill now focuses on “equal athletic opportunities for biological females.” The measure would allow any student athlete or school to sue if there is a suspected transgender athlete on a single-sex team.

For example, if a biological female student loses a championship game to a student who identifies as a transgender woman, or someone who was born male, the student could bring an action against a county board of education or state higher education institution citing an unfair, physical advantage.

That student would be able to “seek injunctive relief and actual damages, as well as reasonable attorney’s fee and court costs, if the student substantially prevails.”

If the defendant student is a minor, however, the identity of that student would remain private and anonymous.

The bill would apply to middle, high school and public university sports.

The bill passed out of committee Thursday night and will be on first reading in the Senate on Monday.