Indiana lawmakers overturn transgender sports veto

Indiana Republican lawmakers on Tuesday banned transgender girls from playing on their schools’ women’s sports teams, overriding a veto by Gov. Eric Holcomb, another Republican who said the measure did not address any pressing issues and exposed the state to prosecute.

The waiver made Indiana the latest conservative state to enact legislation preventing transgender girls or women from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity. Although the specifics of the laws vary from place to place, at least 17 other states have introduced restrictions on transgender sports participation in recent years, according to data from the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group. .

The sport participation of transgender girls and women has become an increasingly contentious topic among political leaders and sports sanctioning groups, who have struggled to address the issue in a way that respects transgender athletes and concerns. that some have raised. on competitive fairness. 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.

Indiana’s cancellation was no surprise. The bill passed both houses of the Republican-controlled Statehouse this year, and waivers in Indiana only require 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 Rep. Michelle Davis, a Republican and former college athlete who sponsored the bill, shortly before the House does not vote in favor of annulment.

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

Across the country, the transgender sports bills have drawn broad but not universal support from Republican politicians. In Utah, lawmakers overruled the veto of Governor Spencer Cox, a Republican. Officials in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah adopted new measures this year, joining several others who have done so since 2020. In Kansas and Kentucky, Democratic governors have vetoed similar bills passed by Republican-controlled legislatures. The Kansas veto stood, but Kentucky lawmakers voted to enact their restrictions over 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-affirming care for children.

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

“It implies that the goals of consistency and fairness in women’s competitive sports are currently not being achieved,” the governor added in his letter. “After extensive review, I find no evidence to support either claim, although I support the overall objective.”

Many Democrats and supporters of transgender rights agreed with the governor and urged Republican lawmakers to uphold the veto. Opponents of the bill gathered at the Statehouse before the votes.

“We spend our time making kids feel bad about themselves,” said State Sen. Shelli Yoder, a Democrat, who said she fears the legislation could harm the mental health of children. children. Ms Yoder predicted that the Bill’s ‘hate and discrimination will be proven in court’.

Even after Mr. Holcomb’s veto, Indiana’s bill retained the support of many of the state’s most powerful Republicans. Attorney General Todd Rokita has repeatedly praised the move, which he says would ensure a level playing field for young athletes, and pledged to defend the state against any lawsuits that may result.

“The Hoosiers will not be intimidated by woke groups threatening women’s sports,” Mr. Rokita wrote this month in an article published by The Hamilton County Reporter, a local newspaper.

Shortly after the waiver vote, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana announced that 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 term limits from running again in 2024, came to power in Indiana in the months after Governor Mike Pence signed into law a measure his supporters have called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” in 2015.

The law was touted as a way to stop religious business owners from providing cakes and flowers to same-sex weddings, but it sparked fierce opposition, including from some of Europe’s biggest businesses. Indiana. It was quickly rewritten to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

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

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

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