- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 19, 2023

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 Senate Bill 0133 is “overly draconian,” describing 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 Friday letter.

Sponsored by Republican state Sen. Wendy Schuler, a former standout athlete and coach, the bill 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,” said the bill, which applies to students in grades 7-12.

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.”

SEE ALSO: Federal judge hands defeat to transgender athletes by upholding West Virginia’s female sports law

The Human Rights Campaign and American Civil Liberties Union had urged Mr. Gordon to veto the bill, warning of litigation if the measure became law.

“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,” said Cathryn Oakley, HRC state legislative director, in a Saturday statement.

The law makes Wyoming the 19th state to approve legislation preventing biological males from playing female sports based on gender identity, an issue that has gained steam as male-born athletes like former collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas win women’s sports titles.

Several of those states have been sued by transgender athletes, but in January a federal judge upheld West Virginia’s Save Women’s Sports law, finding 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,” said U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin in his Jan. 5 opinion.

Last week, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, vetoed for the third time a Fairness in Women’s Sports Bill, setting up the possibility of a veto override in the House and Senate, where Republicans hold veto-proof two-thirds majorities.

The Wyoming bill passed overwhelmingly, clearing the House earlier this month by a vote of 55-10-1. The Senate concurred by 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,” said Mr. Gordon. “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 vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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