Republican lawmakers in Indiana voted on Tuesday to override the GOP governor’s veto of a bill banning transgender women from participating in girls’ school sports and joining more than a dozen other states that have adopted similar laws over the past two years.
State senators voted 32-15 in favor of overthrowing Gov. Eric Holcomb following the same action in a 67-28 vote by the House earlier in the day. Holcomb had said in his veto message that the bill did not provide a cohesive policy for what he called “fairness in K-12 sports” when he unexpectedly vetoed it in March.
The by-pass votes were nearly toeing the party line, and no lawmaker has changed their votes since the start of this year. Four Republican senators joined all Democratic senators in voting to uphold the veto. In the House, three Republicans voted to uphold the veto, while one Democrat supported overturning it.
Opponents have argued that the bill is a bigoted response to a problem that does not exist. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit after the waiver in hopes of preventing the law from going into effect as planned on July 1.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a 10-year-old girl who plays on her school’s all-female softball team in Indianapolis. The new law would disqualify the fourth-grade student from joining her team because she is a transgender girl, which is a violation of Title IX and the US Constitution, according to the complaint.
The bill’s Republican sponsors argue it is necessary to protect the integrity of women’s sports and opportunities for girls to earn college athletic scholarships, but have reported no instances in which girls were outclassed by transgender athletes.
“(This measure) does not solve a problem. It does not bring people together. It does not benefit our state in any way,” Democratic Sen. JD Ford of Indianapolis said shortly before the Senate vote. “Why are you pressuring the government to solve this problem, which is not a problem? »
Republican Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said the state needs the policy and called it “a simple matter of fairness.”
“We don’t like being sued in the state of Indiana, but it happens every once in a while,” Bray said. “It’s a policy that I think we can support.”
The veto votes took place at a special one-day meeting 11 weeks after the end of this year’s regular legislative session. Democrats had called on lawmakers to act instead on a proposal to suspend the state’s 56 cents per gallon gas tax amid soaring national fuel prices. The Republican ignored this request.
House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne lamented that Republicans are focusing on divisive cultural issues that “will do nothing to help move the state of Indiana forward.”
“Certainly we have pressing issues that affect Hoosiers every day, in particular, including the high gas prices we are seeing across the state,” GiaQuinta said. “I wish I could have potentially used that day to better help Hoosiers.”
Activists staged a rally against the ban ahead of votes in the Legislative Assembly. Dozens of attendees, including several families with transgender youth, played sidewalk games around the Statehouse lawn. They argued that Indiana’s ban was not aimed at elite athletes, but rather at children who want to play on a team with their friends.
“We are here to fight the hate and discrimination that could have a lifelong impact on my family,” said Cara Nimskey, mother of a transgender daughter from Bloomington. “Sport is an integral part of teenagers. My daughter dreams of playing basketball in high school. This is an unfair exclusion – it will be overwritten if this materializes.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said it intended to file a lawsuit against what it called “hate legislation” in hopes of preventing it from going into effect as scheduled on 1 July.
Holcomb’s veto came a day before Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed a similar ban on the grounds that such laws target vulnerable children who are already at high risk for suicide. Republican lawmakers in Utah overturned the veto days later amid a flurry of such laws that political observers describe as a classic “corner question” to rouse conservative supporters.
In her veto letter, Holcomb pointed to the Indiana High School Athletic Association, which has a policy covering transgender students wishing to play sports that match their gender identity and said no transgender girls had finalized an application. to play in a women’s team. The law would not prevent students who identify as transgender women or men from playing on men’s sports teams.
Holcomb said in his veto message that the bill assumes “there is an existing problem in K-12 sports in Indiana that requires further intervention by the state government,” but that it does not found no evidence to support this claim “even though I support the overall effort.”
Associated Press writer Tom Davies contributed to this report.
Casey Smith is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Smith on Twitter.