Indiana Lawmakers Override Veto on Transgender Sports Ban

Indiana Lawmakers Override Veto on Transgender Sports Ban
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in East Chicago, Indiana on April 19, 2017. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Caden Pearson

Republican lawmakers in Indiana have overridden the veto of Gov. Eric Holcomb on a bill that bans transgender athletes from competing in girls’ school sports across the state.

The Indiana law would prohibit K-12 students who were born male but who identify as female from participating in a sport or on an athletics team that is designated for women or girls. But it wouldn’t prevent students who identify as female or transgender men from playing on men’s sports teams.

Holcomb, a Republican, had nixed the bill in March despite it passing with majority support in both chambers of the state legislature. In a veto letter (pdf), he said the legislation opened the state to lawsuits and that he found “no evidence” that there was an “existing problem.”

In turn, Republican lawmakers voted to override his veto on Tuesday, with 67 votes to 26 in the House, and 32 votes to 15 in the Senate. The override only required a simple majority vote in both chambers.

Shortly before the House voted to override the veto, the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Michelle Davis told fellow lawmakers, “Your vote will send a clear message that Indiana will protect the integrity of female sports.”

In putting the bill forward, proponents argued it was needed to protect the integrity of female sports and opportunities for girls to gain college athletic scholarship.

But Holcomb thought the “wide-open nature” of the grievance provisions in the bill that apply to all K-12 schools in the state “makes it unclear about how consistency and fairness will be maintained for parents and students across different counties and school districts.”

“Student-athletes could be treated differently according to which school they attend and compete for,” Holcomb wrote in a letter dated March 21. “Frustration of students, parents and administrators will likely follow. This of course only increases the likelihood of litigation against our schools with the courts having to adjudicate the uncertainties.”

Holcomb also noted that in several states that have passed similar legislation, lawsuits have been filed, or have threatened to be filed.

“Any bill brought forward should address the issues raised in these lawsuits,” the governor wrote.

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