They got nothing – other than their own insecurities.

While creating one rationalization after another during debate of a bill that would bar West Virginia transgender students from participating in athletics – including adult men and women in college – Republican senators did not pinpoint any situation in the Mountain State where a transgender athlete was tipping the competitive scales.

Senator Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, said, “The bill is designed to protect girls in women’s sports.”

Well, senator, has that been a problem in West Virginia? Recently? Ever? Or are those imaginary monsters under your bed making too much noise in your head?

For the record, NCAA guidelines permit transgender athletes to compete for college teams after at least a year of testosterone-suppression treatment. And, for all those Republicans hoping to attract new businesses and investments, to say nothing of the 400,000 people they say will be added to the state’s population over the next 10 years, putting up billboards that say we don’t treat everyone the same here is not advised.

And just so everyone knows, more than 500 student-athletes have signed a letter to the NCAA, pushing a halt to championship events in states that restrict or aim to restrict transgender athletes.

This discriminatory push is yet another example of the West Virginia Republican Party mimicking what Republican legislators are doing elsewhere. Legislators don’t even write many of the bills themselves but use models made available by the far right Heritage Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom, designated by Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Your elected representatives here are simply falling in line, being good little soldiers. 

According to the Human Rights Campaign – a civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people – there are more than 200 anti- LGBTQ bills under consideration in state legislatures. Of those, 105 directly target transgender people and about half of those (56 bills) would ban transgender girls and women from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity.

This is the Republican legislative strategy – wave shiny objects that excite the base and distract from real problems that are too difficult for these lawmakers to solve.

Did you hear? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 88,000 people died of drug overdoses in the 12 months ending in August 2020 – the latest figures available. That is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a year.

Our legislators? The Senate has passed a bill that would establish a licensing requirement for syringe exchange programs – effectively putting them out of business, which will drive the death count higher next year.

But transgender kids are taking away Buffy’s chance at a scholarship!

That’s how this crew fixes a problem – never mind the man behind the curtain.

— J. Damon Cain is editor of The Register-Herald. To reach him, email dcain@register-herald.com.

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Overheard:

“They live in bodies that they often hate. And the isolation that causes leads half to strongly consider suicide. They are mocked, they are beaten, they are ridiculed, just for being different. Let’s err on the side of kindness to those who are most vulnerable.”

— Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, arguing against passage of a bill restricting how transgender athletes can participate in school sports.

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