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North Dakota’s governor surprises everyone by vetoing anti-trans bill

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It has been a week of wins for the transgender community.

After several states placed a host of anti-trans bills on hold, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) vetoed H.B. 1298, a bill that prohibits transgender girls from playing sports as their gender.

Related: Florida trans sports ban fails in senate after “genital examinations” controversy

To explain his decision, Burgum wrote a letter to Speaker of the House Rep. Kim Koppelman (R), which said he disagreed with the underlying assumption of the bill, that North Dakota sports were not operating on a level playing field.

“There is no evidence to suggest this is true,” he wrote. “To date, there has not been a single recorded incident of a transgender girl attempting to play on a North Dakota girls’ team. This bill’s blanket prohibitions do not extend to students attending tribal or privately funded schools, thereby creating the potential for an unlevel playing field.”

He also said that the North Dakota High School Activities Association already has a rule that requires trans girls to undergo testosterone suppression treatment for a full year before joining a girls’ sports team.

According to The Hill, the North Dakota Senate, which did not get enough votes the first time around to override the veto, will only seek to override it if the House does.

Tri-State Transgender President Katrina Koesterman told the Bismarck Tribune that the veto “sends a loud message to other lawmakers across the country considering similar legislation: Stop the attacks on transgender youth.”

Burgum’s move comes after a week of similar actions across the country.

In Louisiana, for example, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards recently announced he would not support legislation that seeks to limit gender-affirming healthcare or sports participation for trans youth, citing concerns “about emotionally fragile people.”

And Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) has signaled that she will veto a bill passed by the Republican-dominated legislature that would bar transgender girls from playing school sports.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Montana, Missouri, and North Carolina, bills targeting the trans community, seeking both to limit healthcare access and sports participation, have been set aside.

Chase Strangio, staff attorney for the ACLU and transgender rights activist, tweeted that we have trans organizers to thank for all of this.

“Though this session has been brutal. Three Republican governors have vetoed (in one way or another) anti-trans laws. That is a testament to incredible organizing. Forever in awe of trans organizers.”

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