INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers may override the governor’s veto of a bill banning transgender girls from girls school sports.
Officials are set to vote on the measure Tuesday when they return to the Statehouse to make technical corrections to new laws.
House Bill 1041 would prohibit anyone assigned male at birth from playing on a girls K-12 school sports team. The proposal passed the Indiana legislature earlier this year with the support of most Republican lawmakers.
Advocates, including some Hoosier parents, argue the bill ensures fair competition in girls sports.
“It’s important to me to make sure that, for example, for my daughters they have an equal playing field when it comes to sports and other activities,” said Joe Haney, a Republican commissioner for LaPorte County who has three daughters.
“Despite being equal, biological males and biological females both possess different genetic strengths and weaknesses,” State Rep. Michelle Davis (R-Whiteland), the bill’s author, said in a statement. “Because of these differences, biological girls should compete with girls and biological boys should compete with boys. This commonsense legislation would protect athletic opportunities for Hoosier girls right now and into the future.”
However, Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed the legislation while citing several concerns. He argued fairness in female sports isn’t in jeopardy.
“The presumption of the policy laid out in HEA 1041 is that there is an existing problem in K-12 sports in Indiana that requires further state government intervention,” Holcomb wrote in a letter to lawmakers regarding his veto. “It implies that the goals of consistency and fairness in competitive female sports are not currently being met. After thorough review, I find no evidence to support either claim even if I support the overall goal.”
The IHSAA supports the governor’s veto, citing the policy it has had in place for transgender athletes for several years.
“Our policy is rooted in the Association’s substantial interest in students’ health and safety, in competitive equity, in safeguarding a level playing field, and in ensuring that there is fair opportunity for athletic participation in a manner that enhances the education of all high school students,” IHSAA Commissioner Paul Neidig said in a statement in March. “Through Governor Holcomb’s veto, this policy continues to allow the flexibility to assess competitive advantage in each unique case.”
LGBTQ activists have said they agree with Holcomb and believe the bill unfairly targets transgender kids.
“These are kids that are just trying to live their lives,” said Jayne Walters, education director and board member for Indy Pride. “They’re just trying to be with their friends, play with their friends.”
Former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, is also speaking out against HB 1041, urging lawmakers not to override the governor’s veto. Ballard considers the proposal an “overreach” that could be problematic for cities and towns.
“If we want to have a stronger economy, it’s not tax incentives,” Ballard said. “That’s part of it. But it’s not the major part of it. The major part of it is creating a place where people feel comfortable living and raising their families and being with each other.”
Ballard compared the transgender athletes bill to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in 2015.
“These sorts of laws do not bode well for the attraction of talent,” Ballard said. “This sends a certain kind of message out there that we’re not focused on the future economy, the future education of our students.”
Indiana requires a simple majority vote of the House and Senate to override a governor’s veto. Republicans hold a supermajority in the state legislature.