Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, on Thursday signed a controversial bill that bars transgender girls and women from participating in female sports.

Lawmakers approved the legislation on Monday.

The legislation is part of a wave of anti-transgender bills being introduced by Republican lawmakers. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, nearly 50 similar bills have been introduced nationwide.

Earlier this month, Mississippi's GOP governor signed a similar bill and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem asked lawmakers to exclude college sports in the bill they approved, a move seen largely as an attempt to ease fears of a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) boycott.

GOP Representative Sonia Barker, the bill's sponsor, said that the bill was needed to create “a level playing field for girls and women in our Arkansas schools.”

But Representative Tippi McCullough, the top Democrat in the Arkansas House, said that such measures make growing up more difficult for transgender teens.

“It's extremely hard to be a kid, and if you're a transgender kid, your life's even harder,” said McCullough, the only openly gay member of the Arkansas Legislature. “Sports gives kids a place to belong, a place to be included, a place to succeed or learn to deal with setbacks and work to overcome them.”

HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement that the legislation would tarnish Arkansas' reputation. In his remarks, he also alluded to passage of an anti-transgender bill in North Carolina, which resulted in boycotts against the state.

“Governor Hutchinson’s eagerness to sign this discriminatory legislation is an affront not just to the transgender kids it is bound to hurt but to all Arkansans who will be impacted by its consequences,” David said. “Hutchinson is ignoring the ugly history of states that have dared to pass anti-transgender legislation in years past, and by doing so he is exposing Arkansas to economic harm, expensive taxpayer-funded legal battles, and a tarnished reputation.”

“Transgender kids are kids who just want to play, and they deserve that chance. The fact that neither Governor Hutchinson nor the legislators who voted to pass this bill have named a single example of what they are legislating against underscores that this is simply a politically motivated bill for the sake of discrimination itself. Governors who make their state more discriminatory often suffer the consequences and damage their state in the process and Governor Hutchinson is no different,” he said.