North Carolina stands up for female athletes

By Alan Wooten

Raleigh, NC – Women’s sports in North Carolina were protected by lawmakers Wednesday, with successful overrides of legislation that had met a gubernatorial veto.

photo by Jeffrey F Lin

In late afternoon and evening sessions, the House of Representatives and the Senate each turned back six vetoes of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper he stamped between July 5 and July 21. Included was the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, known technically as House Bill 574.

Cooper’s 14 vetoes this session have all been overturned into law, and the six going through the House on Wednesday each had more than the 72 Republicans voting in favor.

By state statute, both chambers by three-fifths majorities each are necessary to overturn a governor’s veto. The Senate needs 30 when all are present and 27 when there are 45, as was the case Wednesday; the House threshold is 72, and 119 of the 120 were the maximum voting on this night.

The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act was overridden by a vote of 74-45 in the House and 27-18 in the Senate. It was sent to Cooper’s desk after votes of 62-43 in the House and 31-17 in the Senate.

The new law prohibits public middle and high schools, colleges and universities from allowing males to participate on female sports teams. Before going to the governor’s desk, amendments in the Senate had removed restrictions on women playing on men’s teams, as well as references to collegiate intramural sports.

Before going to the governor, prominent representatives came to the Legislative Building. Included were national champion women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell and 12-time All-American swimmer Riley Gaines.

“We’ve worked so hard over the last 50 years to get where we are,” said Hatchell, the former coach at Carolina. “We need to not allow transgenders to compete against females.”

Gaines, an advisor for Independent Women’s Voice, and others were subjected to changing in a locker room with a man who said he “identified” as a woman at the NCAA Championships. She’s been at many engagements alongside Payton McNabb, who played volleyball at Hiwassee Dam High School in Murphy until the spike to the head from a boy saying he “identified” as a girl and playing for an opponent left her with partial paralysis on her right side, chronic headaches, learning challenges and impaired vision.

McNabb told lawmakers, “I might be the first to come before you with an injury, but if this doesn’t pass, I won’t be the last.”

Gaines speaks highly of McNabb. She wrote on social media that day, “Watch the clip of Payton McNabb getting spiked in the face by a male competing with the women. Then watch her testimony she gave today for the first time publicly. I was honored to stand alongside her in NC to continue the fight to protect women’s sports.”

Bill sponsors cited numerous examples of female athletes sidelined by transgender players in cycling, golf, track, disc golf, roller derby, swimming and volleyball.

Opposition came from Equality NC, the Campaign for Southern Equality, and others, including several Democrats. Equality NC, according to a social media posting, even offered people $50 gift cards to come to Raleigh on Wednesday and fill the chamber galleries.

The law is likely to cause a change in North Carolina High School Athletic Association policy, among other places. The public school governing body for athletics has allowed case-by-case judgment on students wishing to compete in a sport for boys or girls that does not align with their chromosomes.