Indiana lawmakers ignore transgender sports veto

Republican Indiana lawmakers banned transgender girls from playing on women’s sports teams in their schools on Tuesday, overturning the veto of Governor Eric Holcomb, a fellow Republican who said the measure didn’t address any pressing issues and exposed the state. to lawsuits.

The exclusion made Indiana the latest Conservative state to enact legislation that prevents transgender girls or women from playing in sports teams that align with their gender identity. Although the details of the laws vary from place to place, at least 17 other states have introduced restrictions on participating in transgender sports in recent years, according to data from the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group.

Sports participation by transgender girls and women has become an increasingly divisive topic among political leaders and sports sanction groups, who have struggled to address the issue in a way that respects transgender athletes and the concerns some have raised. on competitive equity. This year, Lia Thomas, a member of the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team, became the first openly transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming title.

The Indiana override was no surprise. The bill passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled Statehouse by wide margins this year, and the exclusions in Indiana require only a simple majority in the House and Senate.

“Your vote will send a clear message that Indiana will protect the integrity of women’s sports,” said State Representative Michelle Davis, a Republican and former college athlete who sponsored the bill, just before the House voted for. cancellation.

The override passed with a vote of 67-28 in the House and a vote of 32-15 in the Senate.

Across the country, transgender sports bills have attracted broad but not universal support from Republican politicians. In Utah, lawmakers overturned the veto of Governor Spencer Cox, a Republican. Officials in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah have adopted new measures this year, joining many others who have done so since 2020. In Kansas and Kentucky, Democratic governors have placed vetoing similar bills passed Republican-controlled legislatures. The Kansas veto remained, but Kentucky lawmakers voted to enact their restrictions on the governor’s objections.

Legislation on transgender issues has not been limited to sports participation, with some states also targeting transgender bathroom access and gender-based care for children.

Mr. Holcomb, a Republican in his second term, vetoed the bill in March, diverging from many other Republican governors who eagerly signed similar measures. The bill, known as HEA 1041, would likely have been challenged in court if it became law, Mr. Holcomb said at the time. He also questioned whether he was solving urgent problems, writing in a letter to lawmakers that “the policy presumption set forth in HEA 1041 is that there is an existing problem in K-12 sports in Indiana that requires further state government intervention. . “

“It implies that the goals of consistency and fairness in competitive women’s sports are not currently being met,” the governor added in his letter. “After a thorough analysis, I find no evidence to support either of the two claims, although I support the overall goal.”

Many Democrats and transgender rights advocates agreed with the governor and urged Republican lawmakers to support the veto. Opponents of the bill met in the State Assembly before the vote.

“We are spending our time making children feel bad about themselves,” said state Senator Shelli Yoder, a Democrat, who said she was concerned that the legislation could harm children’s mental health. Ms. Yoder predicted that “the hatred and discrimination of the bill will be tried in court”.

Even after Mr. Holcomb’s veto, the Indiana bill retained the support of many of the state’s most powerful Republicans. Attorney General Todd Rokita has repeatedly praised the measure, which he said would ensure a level playing field for young athletes, and vowed to defend the state from any lawsuits that might ensue.

“Hoosiers will not be bullied by smart groups that threaten women’s sports,” Mr. Rokita wrote this month in a piece published by The Hamilton County Reporter, a local newspaper.

Shortly after the exclusion vote, Indiana’s American Civil Liberties Union announced it had filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a 10-year-old transgender girl who plays on her school’s women’s softball team. The lawsuit aims to block the application of the new law.

Mr. Holcomb, who is barred by mandate limits from running again in 2024, came to power in Indiana in the months after Governor Mike Pence signed a measure his supporters called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” 2015.

That law was presented as a way to protect religious entrepreneurs from having to provide cakes and flowers for same-sex weddings, but it sparked fierce opposition, including from some of Indiana’s most prominent businesses. It was quickly rewritten to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Mr. Holcomb, whom Mr. Pence appointed lieutenant governor after the backlash to the law, stepped in as a Republican candidate for governor in 2016 after Mr. Pence was chosen as Donald J. Trump’s running mate.

During his time as governor, Holcomb embraced many conservative policies, including a measure he signed this year allowing people in Indiana to carry guns without permission. But he has at times taken a more moderate stance than other Republicans, frustrating some conservatives with restrictions on viruses in the early stages of the pandemic.

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