‘Women’s Bill of Rights’ passes House after argument over whether it expands any actual rights

On Valentine’s Day, the House of Delegates passed a “Women’s Bill of Rights” that would codify the definitions of “man” and “woman” while assuring availability of single-sex spaces like restrooms and locker rooms.

Kathie Hess Crouse

“All of us in this chamber know we can’t prevent sex discrimination if we cannot even define sex,” said Delegate Kathie Hess Crouse, R-Putnam, the lead sponsor of the bill.

The bill passed 87-12 after about an hour of debate and now goes to the state Senate.

House Bill 5243 generated a splash earlier this month when Gov. Jim Justice advocated for its passage along with Riley Gaines, a former competitive swimmer who is now active in political issues.

The bill mostly works by defining “female” and “male,” “men” and “women” and “girls” and “boys” and saying those terms should be used wherever state law applies.

So, for example, the bill defines a female as someone with a reproductive system “that at some point produces ova.” It defines male as someone with a reproductive system “that at some point produces sperm.”

It says, “There are only two sexes, and every individual is either male or female” and “A person’s ‘sex’ is their biological sex (either male or female) at birth.”

The bill specifies that a person with differences in sex development, a condition involving genes, hormones and reproductive organs, are not classified as a third sex.

The bill specifies that “equal” does not mean “same” or “identical” with respect to equality of the sexes.

An amendment adopted last week  would remove an exemption for spouses in sexual offenses that could occur in a marriage.

“Since the 1970s. radical feminists supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment have sought a world in which men and women are treated exactly the same in every single circumstance, regardless of physical differences. A world where men and women may never be separated for any reason. The Women’s Bill of Rights aims to halt this radical agenda,” Crouse said.

Democrats argued that the bill does nothing to advance women’s rights — and that it might deflate the power of the West Virginia Human Rights Act.

Kayla Young

“This bill decimates the definition of equal in our Human Rights Act, and the 14th Amendment says that no one should deny equal protection under the law,” said Delegate Kayla Young, D-Kanawha.

“This does not help women in any capacity at all. In fact, it just says that men and women can have single sex environments. It provides the same thing for men that it does for women, it doesn’t do anything for women.”

Anitra Hamilton

Delegate Anitra Hamilton, D-Monongalia, said the bill actually targets particular members of communities.

“This bill was never about women,” Hamilton said. “This bill was targeted at a certain population of people, and if we’re going to create laws to impact our state then we have to be cognizant that we must be mindful of all people.”

After the passage vote on the bill, delegates had a second debate about amending the title of the bill.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, proposed “The Women’s Bill of Wrongs.”

Most delegates voted for a new bill title offered by Crouse: “A Bill to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §16-67-1, §16-67-2, §16-67-3, §16-67-4, and §16-67-5, all relating to the Women’s Bill of Rights; providing short title; setting forth purpose; establishing application of act; defining terms and applications of those definitions; defining sex discrimination in state policies, programs, or statutes; establishing the state interest in certain single sex environments; creating parameters for certain data collection; and allowing severability; and to amend and reenact §61-8B-1 of said code, relating to sexual offenses; and amending the definition of sexual contact.”


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