North Carolina lawmakers advanced legislation April 19 that would bar transgender female athletes from playing on girls’ sports teams, and expanded the scope of the bill to apply not just to middle schools and high schools, but college sports as well. House Bill 574, named the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, was filed earlier this month and would ban “students of the male sex” from participating in athletic teams “designated for females, women, or girls.” The bill was originally written to apply only to middle schools and high schools, but was replaced with a new version Wednesday that would apply to community colleges and four-year colleges as well. Lawmakers on the House Judiciary 1 Committee approved the bill early in the day in a party-line vote. 

GOP Rep. Tricia Cotham of Charlotte, who recently switched parties and as of April 19 hadn’t signed onto the bill as a sponsor, did vote in favor of it, indicating that Republicans may have enough votes to pass the bill on their own and override any veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

The bill is moving fast. It was scheduled to be considered next by the House Rules Committee later in the day, which could also include a possible floor vote. It cleared the judiciary committee after more than an hour of debate and public comments. Republicans said the bill was necessary to protect athletic opportunities for women, while Democrats said the bill was a solution looking for a problem and represented a “proxy for discrimination.”

Rep. Jennifer Balkcom, a Henderson County Republican and one of HB 574’s primary sponsors, turned over most of her time while presenting the bill to Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer and political activist who has earned national attention for opposing the inclusion of transgender women in women’s sports.

Gaines spoke about competing against Lia Thomas, a transgender athlete who swam for the University of Pennsylvania, and who tied with Gaines for fifth place in the 200-meter freestyle final during the 2022 NCAA women’s swimming and diving championships. Despite tying within a hundredth of a second, Gaines said the trophy was given to Thomas.

This article appears courtesy of our media partner the Charlotte Observer.

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