Indiana Legislature overrides governor's veto on anti-trans sports ban

Indiana will become one of more than a dozen states to have a trans sports ban.

May 24, 2022, 3:30 PM

The Indiana Legislature voted Tuesday to override the governor's veto of the anti-trans bill that bans transgender girls from participating in girls' sports in K-12 schools.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed the bill in March. He said the bill fell short in clarifying or creating policy to ensure "fairness" in school sports.

In his veto letter, he said he echoed the Indiana High School Athletic Association's concerns that the bill does not address inconsistencies about enforcement across different counties and school districts and will cause confusion and litigation against schools.

He also pointed to pending litigation seen in other states that have passed similar laws, where courts have enjoined or prohibited the laws from taking effect.

"Any bill brought forward should address the issues raised in these lawsuits," Holcomb's March letter read.

He also said there was no evidence of an issue of fairness in girls' sports and trans participation.

PHOTO: Gov. Eric Holcomb delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature at the Statehouse, Jan. 11, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Gov. Eric Holcomb delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature at the Statehouse, Jan. 11, 2022, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP, FILE

The Republican-controlled House and Senate only needed a simple majority to override the veto, unlike most states that require a two-thirds vote. Regardless, 71 of the 100 members of the House are Republican and 39 of 50 senators are Republican. The House voted 67-28 to quash Holcomb's veto, while the Senate voted 32-15.

With the Legislature voting to override the governor's veto, the law will go into effect on July 1.

LGBTQ advocates in the state are expected to challenge the law in court.

"Indiana codified legislation directly targeting a few vulnerable students into law to distract from Republicans inability to meet the moment and form a cogent agenda," House Democratic leader Phil GiaQuinta said in a statement. "It's a pattern seen in state legislatures around the country. When the GOP doesn't have answers to folks' toughest questions, they resort to legislative measures meant to distract and divide."

LGBTQ advocates had applauded Holcomb's decision to veto the bill, saying it could affect the mental health and safety of transgender youth in the state.

"This victory belongs to the trans youth of Indiana, who deserve to live as their authentic selves and to play the sports they love, free from discrimination," Katie Blair, advocacy and public policy director for the ACLU of Indiana, said following his announcement.

When the bill first passed the state Legislature, critics of the bill said it could only cause more harm to already vulnerable teens and children.

PHOTO: People gather to protest against HB1041, a bill to ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity, during a rally at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.
People gather to protest against HB1041, a bill to ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity, during a rally at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022.
Michael Conroy/AP, FILE

"By passing this bill, Indiana legislators have exposed trans kids to additional exclusion and mistreatment. This legislation is hateful, harmful, and appears to violate federal law and the Constitution," Blair said.

Indiana is one of at least 19 states that has deliberated over anti-trans sports bans, and could become one of more than a dozen states to implement it.

"I want to make sure that all the opportunities are provided for our young females and we protect the fair competition for them so they have all those possibilities," Republican Indiana state Rep. Michelle Davis, who authored the bill, said at a hearing in January.

Davis also admitted under questioning during the hearing she could not cite any examples in Indiana of a cisgender student losing a chance to compete to a trans athlete, according to Indianapolis ABC affiliate WRTV.

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