RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A bill that would block transgender students in North Carolina from competing on teams that align with their gender identity got approval by a Senate committee Tuesday morning.

The bill, called the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” would require students play on teams based on their biological sex at birth. The Senate could vote on it Thursday. Similar legislation in the House of Representatives is also expected to advance this week. 

“This bill is not about being anti-trans. This bill is about being pro-woman,” said Sen. Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell). “If we want to talk about uncomfortable, let’s talk about how young women’s lives are put in danger by having to play a sport they love against someone who’s three times as strong as them.”  

Democrats were critical of the bill, pointing to the relatively low number of transgender athletes competing in North Carolina’s middle and high schools.  

Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) cited the approximately 15 transgender students cleared to play based on their gender identity by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association as compared to the 140,000 high school athletes across the state. The association has a process those students must follow including providing documentation from a healthcare provider.   

“I think this bill traffics in fear, fifteen of them to be targeted to be clear. I think it puts our most vulnerable kids in harm,” he said.  

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt (R) appeared before the committee Tuesday to push for the bill to pass.

“Biological differences explain why we needed Title IX protections in the first place,” she said. 

When the bill was initially filed it would have blocked girls from playing sports such as football. The bill’s sponsors said that was not their intention and amended it Tuesday to still allow that to happen. 

Some parents of transgender children blasted the bill as an attack on LGBTQ youth. 

Katie Jenifer, who’s daughter Maddie is transgender, said it would be “harmful.”  

“This is ridiculousness,” she said. “My daughter is a girl and should be playing on girls’ teams. If she were to play on a boy’s baseball team, she definitely would get hurt.” 

This bill is moving just as Republicans have gained a veto-proof supermajority in the legislature following Rep. Tricia Cotham’s switch to the Republican Party. It’s unclear if she supports the legislation, as she has publicly opposed similar bills in other states. 

The Associated Press reports about 20 states have passed similar laws in the last few years. The U.S. Supreme Court declined earlier this month to intervene in a case involving West Virginia’s law while a legal challenge to it plays out in a lower court.  

Republicans also have filed a series of other bills impacting LGBTQ youth, including legislation that would limit gender-affirming care for transgender minors. 

“I cannot stress this enough — lives will be lost. Children will die if these bills go through,” said Katie Jenifer.