Louisiana Governor vetoes bill banning transgender girls from playing school sports

Gov John Bel Edwards Louisiana
Photo: Screenshot, NBC Local 33

Last week, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) announced his veto of an anti-trans sports bill seeking to ban transgender students from participating on teams that align with their gender.

“Discrimination is not a Louisiana value,” Edwards said in a statement, explaining his veto of SB 156, also known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.

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“…this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards continued. “Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue.”

“Further, it would make life more difficult for transgender children, who are some of the most vulnerable Louisianans when it comes to issues of mental health. We should be looking for more ways to unite rather than divide our citizens. And while there is no issue to be solved by this bill, it does present real problems in that it makes it more likely that NCAA and professional championships, like the 2022 Final Four, would not happen in our state. For these and for other reasons, I have vetoed the bill.”

The bill stated its goal “to require that schools designate intercollegiate, interscholastic, or intramural athletic teams according to the biological sex of the team members.” Despite a focus on transgender girls, it could have effected transgender students of all genders.

Edwards’s veto is no surprise. In April, he 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.”

LGBTQ activists celebrated Edwards’s decision.

“Gov. Bel Edwards’ veto of this discriminatory bill will prevent further discrimination towards transgender children in Louisiana,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “SB 156 was nothing more than a politically motivated bill that seeks to dehumanize transgender children. By vetoing this bill, Gov. Bel Edwards reminded legislators that any attempts to discriminate against transgender children is intolerable and will be defeated.”

The veto comes on the heels of three other Governors recently vetoing their own states’ anti-trans sports bills in North Dakota, Kansas, and South Dakota. It was not a victory for South Dakota, though, where following her veto, Governor Kristi Noem (R) immediately voiced her support for restricting transgender student athlete participation and proceeded to pass two executive orders prohibiting the participation of trans women and girls on women’s sports teams.

In Louisiana’s case, there still remains a risk the legislature could decide to circumvent Edwards’s veto. State Senator Beth Mizell (R), the author of the bill, told CBS affiliate 4WWL that she plans to work to convince the legislature to convene to override it.

“The fairness for women’s sports bill was intended to protect women’s athletics,” said Mizell. “Women have worked a long time for our athletics to reach the level it’s at now.  Without protection for biological women to compete with biological women those opportunities can be lost.”

The bill passed the Louisiana House 78-19 and the Senate 29-6, meaning there are enough votes to override Edwards’s veto if Mizell succeeds.

According to the Associated Press, an attempt to override the Governor’s veto would be historic. Since the regular legislative session has ended, it would require a special veto override session, something the state has never held since the adoption of its current constitution in 1974.

Even without this bill, though, there are still massive barriers for transgender students in Louisiana who want to play sports, particularly high school students.

The official rules of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association state that “A student-athlete shall compete in the gender of their birth certificate unless they have undergone sex reassignment.”

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