The West Virginia Senate on Thursday approved a controversial bill that bars transgender girls and women from participating in female sports.

House Bill 3293 cleared the Republican-led chamber with an 18-15 vote. The GOP-controlled House of Delegates approved the bill last month with a wider 78-20 vote.

The House must take up the bill a second time to vote on changes introduced in the Senate.

The Senate debated the bill for about an hour before voting on it.

State Senator William Ihlenfeld, a Democrat, told colleagues that the measure was “cruel” and “mean-spirited.”

“Some in this room don't seem to care that this bill is cruel, that it's narrow-minded, that it's mean-spirited, that it's unnecessary,” he said. “That it's purely political.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, criticized the bill's advance in a statement.

“The West Virginia state legislature is stoking fear and division by advancing HB 3293 – a discriminatory anti-transgender bill that has no place in West Virginia or this country,” HRC President Alphonso David said. “There is no evidence that supports the need for this legislation, and it will jeopardize the well-being of transgender kids across the state – who are just kids who want to play. The health and safety of children should never be reduced to a political talking point. West Virginians need state legislators to prioritize the COVID-19 pandemic and economic relief, not manufactured issues that discriminate against transgender youth. The West Virginia House of Delegates must vote down this bill and stand firm for equality for all West Virginians.”

Republican Governor Jim Justice on Thursday didn't comment on the bill's passage or whether he would sign it.

Mississippi, Arkansas, and South Dakota have similar bans, while a law in Idaho was blocked from enforcement last year.