Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has allowed a bill barring biological males from female scholastic sports to become law without his signature, but he isn’t happy about it.
The Republican governor said he worries that Senate Bill 0133 is “overly draconian.” He describes the measure as a solution in search of a problem in a state with about 91,000 students and just four known transgender athletes.
“First, while I support and agree with the overall goal of fairness in competitive sports, I am concerned that the ban included in this legislation is overly draconian, is discriminatory without attention to individual circumstances or mitigating factors, and pays little attention to the fundamental principles of equality,” Mr. Gordon said in a March 17 letter.
His reservations notwithstanding, such bills are gaining momentum nationwide. Wyoming is the 19th state to enact Fairness in Women’s Sports measures despite pushback from LGBTQ+ advocates who insist that “trans women are women” and decry the laws as “transgender sports bans.”
Like the other state laws, the Wyoming measure does not prevent boys who identify as girls from playing on boys’ sports teams or prevent girls, no matter their gender identity, from participating on either boys’ or girls’ squads.
Terry Schilling, president of the conservative American Principles Project, cheered the legislative trend. No matter their gender identity, he said, “males will still retain the athletic advantages that come with their biological sex.”
“We applaud Wyoming legislators for taking this step to preserve fairness and integrity in girls’ sports, and we look forward to seeing even more states — and eventually Congress — enact these important protections as well,” Mr. Schilling said.
Sponsored by state Sen. Wendy Schuler, a Republican and a former standout athlete and coach, the legislation requires schools to designate teams based on sex and defines sex as “the biological, physical condition of being male or female, determined by an individual’s genetics and anatomy at birth.”
“A student of the male sex shall not compete, and a public school shall not allow a student of the male sex to compete, in an athletic activity or team designated for students of the female sex,” says the law, which applies to students in grades seven through 12.
The measure, which takes effect July 1, allows male athletes to train or practice with female teams as long as “no female is deprived of a roster spot on a team or sport, opportunity to participate in a practice or competition, scholarship, admission to an educational institution or any other benefit.”
The Human Rights Campaign and American Civil Liberties Union urged Mr. Gordon to veto the bill and warned about litigation.
“Gov. Gordon had the opportunity to do the right thing for Wyoming kids who just want to play sports and have fun with their friends,” Cathryn Oakley, Human Rights Campaign state legislative director, said in a statement.
Eighteen other states have approved legislation preventing biological males from playing female sports based on gender identity. The issue has gained steam as male-born athletes, such as former collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas, win women’s sports titles.
Transgender athletes have sued several of those states, but a federal judge has upheld West Virginia’s Save Women’s Sports law. He found that “a transgender girl is biologically male” and “biological males generally outperform females athletically.”
“The state is permitted to legislate sports rules on this basis because sex, and the physical characteristics that flow from it, are substantially related to athletic performance and fairness in sports,” U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin said in his Jan. 5 opinion.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, vetoed a Fairness in Women’s Sports bill for the third time on March 17. Republicans in the House and Senate hold two-thirds majorities, enough to override the veto.
The Wyoming bill passed the House this month by a vote of 55-10-1. The Senate concurred with a vote of 27-3-1.
“Understanding the political reality that will prolong these very divisive debates, I am willing to let this pass into law without benefit of my signature,” Mr. Gordon said. “I reiterate my belief that hate and discrimination have no place in Wyoming.”
Ms. Schuler, who taught school for 40 years and coached multiple sports, is a member of the National High School Hall of Fame and Wyoming Coaches Hall of Fame. She reintroduced the bill after it failed to reach the House floor last year for a vote.
“I’m not opposed to students needing to do what they need to do. I’m just opposed to males competing against biological females,” she told the Cowboy State Daily.
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at email@example.com.
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