West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill Wednesday banning transgender athletes from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender.
On Friday, when pressed by MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle to provide an example of a trans child “trying to gain an unfair competitive advantage” at a school in the state, Justice, a Republican, said he couldn’t.
“I don't have that experience exactly to myself right now,” Justice said. When she pressed him harder, he said, “I can’t really tell you one, but I can tell you this, Stephanie: I’m a coach. I coach a girls’ basketball team, and I can tell you that we all know what an absolute advantage boys would have playing against girls.”
Ruhle responded, “But sir, you have no examples of this happening.” She added, “Why would you take your time to do this? Let’s talk about other things that I can give you examples of in your state. According to U.S. News & World Report, West Virginia ranks 45th in education, 47th in health care, 48th on the economy and 50th in infrastructure. If you cannot name one single example for me of a child doing this, why would you make this a priority? I just named four things that would seem to me like a much bigger priority.”
Justice said the bill wasn’t a priority for him — it was just sent to his desk.
“I mean, it’s just come to me, and I have absolutely signed it, because I believe from the standpoint of a coach, I believe that girls work so hard to obtain Title IX, and I do not have any idea now why we are trying to disadvantage them in participating in a sport that they put so much into,” he said.
Thirty-five bills have been filed in state legislatures this year to ban transgender student athletes, particularly trans girls, from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender, though experts have said the bills have no basis in science or research.
Ruhle’s interview with Justice captures what LGBTQ advocates have said is a common issue with trans athlete bans: They are a solution in search of a problem.
Out of more than two dozen lawmakers who sponsored trans athlete bans, only a few could give examples of cases where trans athletes competing caused a problem, according to The Associated Press.
Still, more states are passing the bills. West Virginia joined six other states where governors have signed trans athlete bans: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota and Tennessee, though a federal judge has blocked Idaho’s law from taking effect in August.