RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia House of Delegates advanced a bill on Monday that would ban transgender women and girls from competing in women’s sports at any level in Virginia schools — but places no restrictions on transgender men.
HB 1387, patroned by Delegate Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach), would ban transgender women and girls from competing on any “interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic team” at any school or college in the state.
“The purpose of House Bill 1387 is to protect our girls and young women from being forced to compete against biological males,” Greenhalgh said. “Today, even the strongest, fastest girls in Virginia must step up to the starting line and know, ‘I can’t win.'”
Those speaking in support of the bill were largely from out of state, including college athletes speaking on their own experiences competing against transgender women outside of Virginia, athletes who have not personally competed against trans athletes but who supported the ban or legislators and lobbyists with conservative organizations.
One of the speakers was Marshi Smith, a former collegiate swimmer from Northern Virginia who celebrated the opportunity swimming scholarships gave her to attend college.
“I won a PAC-10 and NCAA championship, and I just want to say today how important it is to protect the women’s sports,” she said.
But while many speakers emphasized the importance of scholarships and lost opportunities in highly-competitive NCAA and high school league sports, the bill would ban transgender women and girls from virtually all organized school sports, including clubs and intramurals, unless they elect to play on co-ed or men’s teams.
Kimberly Morris, representing Equality Virginia, said the legislation was unnecessary.
“The issues brought forth by the sponsor and the supporters of this bill can be addressed without banning participation or stigmatizing young transgender girls, including the already stringent standards established by Virginia,” she said.
Under current Virginia High School League (VHSL) regulations, transgender athletes wishing to have their identity recognized for competition must provide documentation of their transition, including lists of medication taken. The decision is then left to a VHSL district committee to be made on a case-by-case basis.
Since these rules were enacted in 2014, just 28 students have applied and 25 have been granted the right to play on teams aligning with their gender identities. In 2021, just nine of the 174,000 students participating in high school sports were transgender.
Ron Adams, a 2nd-year law student at the University of Virginia and transgender man, said the bill ignores the important social value of allowing kids to compete in high school sports.
“I wasn’t out when I played sports as a kid, but if I now had to play on an all-girls sports team because I was assigned female at birth, I wouldn’t play,” he said. “And that would be such a shame. The reality is these bills are telling kids they can’t play.”
After the public comment period, Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) asked Greenhalgh why the bill had been brought forward in this session, “Is the patron aware of any issues of fairness that the schools or specific leagues or athletic associations have not been able to handle adequately under existing regulations?”
“Well, the fact that a biological man can compete against a biological woman in a women’s competition, that is unfair,” Greenhalgh replied.
The bill was ultimately recommended to report on a party-line vote of 6-4, and is likely to be passed by the Republican-controlled House Education committee, after which it will be considered by the full house.