Wyoming has become the 19th state to enact an anti-trans sports ban.
The law prevents trans girls in eighth through 12th grade from competing in women’s sports. It has passed without the signature of Gov. Mark Gordon (R), who opposed the legislation but decided not to veto it because he did not want to “prolong these very divisive debates.”
“I am willing to let this pass into law without the benefit of my signature,” Gordon wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Chuck Gray. “I reiterate my belief that hate and discrimination have no place in Wyoming.”
Gordon wrote that he felt the law was “overly draconian” and “discriminatory” and that it ignored the “fundamental principles of equality.”
He also expressed worry about what the legislation would do to the mental health of trans youth in the state and expressed doubt that someone would pretend to be trans to gain a competitive advantage. He said Wyoming has the highest suicide rates in the country and said he does not want this ban to end up “pushing these students farther down this road rather than finding ways to support them.”
Gordon also acknowledged that of the 91,000 student-athletes in the state, there are only four out trans kids. “This seems to call for individualized consideration,” he said, “where families, students, teams, and others can thoughtfully address specific circumstances, rather than such a punitive, ostracizing broad-brush approach.”
But Gordon let the bill become law anyway, saying that he not only wanted to avoid the debate but also that he did believe fairness in sports is an issue and that there is inherent “awkwardness” when trans people join sports teams.
Sara Burlingame, the executive director of Wyoming Equality, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that families of trans athletes plan to sue.
“Those families have been very clear that they live in Wyoming because they love Wyoming, and they love our promise of liberty and equality,” she said. “They know that that has to apply to their children, as well as their neighbor’s children, and so we will be fighting this.”
In his letter, Gordon also mentioned that he didn’t want to sign the law because he knew there would be lawsuits, and he wouldn’t sign something he knew would cost the taxpayers money. But while blasting Gordon for allowing the legislation to become law, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) noted that all of Gordon’s concerns are still coming true, even without his signature.
“Gov. Gordon had the opportunity to do the right thing for Wyoming kids who just want to play sports and have fun with their friends,” said HRC State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley.
“Allowing this discriminatory legislation to become law without his signature does not prevent the harm the bill will do to transgender youth; it will not prevent the cost to taxpayers for defending an unconstitutional and illegal piece of legislation in court; and it will not make any of the much needed investments that would truly help support women’s sports in Wyoming. Transgender kids deserve to grow up knowing that they are loved and respected for who they are. The Governor’s refusal to veto this bill will make their lives harder today. Wyoming families deserve better.”
On Friday, Gordon also signed the country’s first explicit law banning abortion pills. And without his signature, allowed another anti-abortion bill to become law.
Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide. If you need to talk to someone now, call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. It’s staffed by trans people, for trans people. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.