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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Republican-led North Carolina House of Representatives successfully helped pass a bill Wednesday aimed at stopping transgender females from competing on women’s sports teams.

It passed just before 4:30 p.m., 73-39.  

Republicans expanded the scope of the bill Wednesday morning to include public and private colleges and universities. The bill originally applied to only middle and high schools. It requires that athletes play on teams based on their biological sex at birth and not their gender identity. 

Riley Gaines, a former collegiate swimmer at the University of Kentucky who has made national headlines for urging states to adopt bills such as the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” came to Raleigh Wednesday to urge its passage in North Carolina, speaking about her experience competing against Lia Thomas, a transgender woman.  

“I can wholeheartedly attest to the talks, the whispers, the grumbles of anger and frustration from these girls, who just like myself, had dedicated their entire lives to get to that point,” Gaines said. 

Additionally, Payten McNabb, a high school student from Cherokee, talked about her experience during a volleyball match last fall when she said a transgender athlete spiked a ball that hit her. 

“I suffered from a concussion and neck injury that to this day I’m still recovering from,” McNabb said, adding that she has impaired vision, partial paralysis on her right side, constant headaches, anxiety and depression. “I am here for every biological female athlete behind me: my little sister, my cousins, my teammates.” 

The bill also includes provisions to allow students who are “harmed as a result of violation” of the bill to sue. 

People opposing the bill told a House committee Wednesday that it could further stigmatize LGBTQ youth. 

Shanna Patterson, of Charlotte, said her daughter is transgender and worries about her missing out on opportunities in sports.  

“She deserves the same chances to learn teamwork and build a chance of belonging through participation in sports,” Patterson said. “Denying trans kids this opportunity is unfair, unnecessary and sends a dangerous message.” 

Sean Radek, a teenager who is also from Charlotte, talked about struggles he has faced since coming out as transgender.  

“I’ve struggled with depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation due to a loss of community, especially when it came to sports,” Radek said.  

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association has approved about 15 transgender students to play sports, following a formal petition process.  

The NCAA is in the process of implementing an updated policy regarding transgender student-athletes.

Beginning in August 2024, those athletes would be able to compete on a team based on their gender identity as long as the provide documentation that “meets the sport-specific standard,” that could include testosterone levels. 

North Carolina would join about 20 states that have enacted similar laws.

There are legal challenges pending in other states. The Biden administration is also seeking to limit the reach of these laws through a proposed rule announced earlier this month. 

“We’ll take on the fight when it gets here,” Rep. Jennifer Balkcom (R-Henderson) said. 

The vote in the House comes as Republicans have recently gained a veto-proof supermajority following the decision by Rep. Tricia Cotham to switch parties and join Republicans. 

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When she campaigned last year as a Democrat, she wrote on her campaign website that “LGBTQ+ youth are under attack by Republican state legislatures across the country.”  

She voted in favor of the bill during a committee meeting Wednesday morning. She did not respond to reporters who attempted to ask her about her vote. 

A similar bill is scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Thursday. It does not currently extend to college sports, and it’s not clear how Republicans plan to reconcile the two versions of the bill.