(The Center Square) – Advocates for the transgender community celebrated another victory in Virginia Tuesday when the House of Delegates K-12 Education Subcommittee voted down a bill that would have segregated sports participation based on sex.
A similar bill had a similar fate last year, though versions of the Save Girls’ Sports bill — a bill that confined sports players to teams of their biological sex and was first passed in Idaho — have been adopted by about half of the states since 2020.
The 2023 bill was sponsored by former Del. Karen Greenhalgh, R-Virginia Beach, and would have banned biological males from girls’ and women’s sports at all levels. Due to the then-Republican majority in the House, the bill narrowly passed the House 51-47, only to be killed in the Senate committee on education and health 10-5.
Del. Delores Oates, R-Warren, sponsored the bill before the House subcommittee on Tuesday. Despite House Bill 1387’s failure last year and some states limiting the law to K-12 sports, HB 1120 was nearly identical to 1387 and maintained the prohibitions that would have kept biological males from female sports, from the youngest school-sponsored sports through the collegiate level. But with the Democratic majority in both chambers, it didn’t get as far in 2024.
“Title IX eliminated discrimination based on sex, recognizing that males would always have a physical advantage over females,” Oates said, presenting her bill to the committee.
She later added, “I will say that this bill was not born out of animus or bigotry, but out of the desire for women to be able to compete fairly and equally.”
Supporters and critics of the legislation were on hand to testify.
“It breaks my heart to see all the gains that my generation worked so hard for being erased. Please protect womens’ sport,” said the grandmother of Susanna Price of Roanoke College. Price’s swim team had a transgender-identifying student join for a time.
Breanna Diaz from the American Civil Liberties Union, who identifies as she/they spoke in opposition to the bill.
“While 23 states might have a ban on trans athletes, they are all being litigated and challenged, including right here in the Fourth Circuit. This bill is similar to one currently being challenged in West Virginia, and we should at least wait until that decision comes down. We oppose,” Diaz said.
A student with the Virginia Student Power Network also testified against the bill.
“Do not get this mixed up. This bill is not a women’s rights issue. It has nothing to do with fairness. The women who deny trans women are not feminist. They are discriminatory,” she said.
The bill was killed 5-2 along party lines, with two members absent from the committee.