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Indiana legislatures override governor's veto of bill banning transgender girls from sports

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Posted at 3:11 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 20:17:11-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana legislatures have voted to override the governor's veto of a bill that would ban transgender girls from participating on sports teams at K-12 public schools designated for girls.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed the bill, House Bill 1041, earlier this year.

The Indiana House voted to override the veto on Tuesday with a 67-28 vote and the Senate overrode the veto with a 32-15 vote. The law will go into effect July 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indianafiled a lawsuit challenging the bill on behalf of a 10-year-old transgender girl, A.M. It says preventing A.M. and other transgender girls from participating in girls athletics violates Title IX and is discrimination on the basis of transgender status and sex.

“When misinformation about biology and gender is used to bar transgender girls from school sports it amounts to the same form of sex discrimination that has long been prohibited under Title IX, a law that protects all students – including trans people – on the basis of sex and it denies the promise of the Constitution of equal protection under the law,” said Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana.

A.M. currently plays on her school's all-girls softball team. Her mother says her daughter has had trouble in the past with self-confidence, but joining the team helped her come out of her shell.

“I watched as she bloomed and felt more at ease in her skin,” said A.M.’s mother. “When my daughter learned about this law, she was hurt and angry. She wants to stand up for girls like her, as well as herself, because she knows how upset they are right now."

The lawsuit says A.M.'s school, which is within the Indianapolis Public School system, told A.M. that she wouldn't be able to play softball this year because of HEA 1041. A.M's birth certificate gender marker was changed to female and she is on puberty blockers.

"A.M.’s school does have a boys’ baseball team. However, she cannot play on that team as she is not a boy and no one at school views her as anything but a girl," the lawsuit reads. "Forcing A.M to play on the boys’ team would undermine the core part of her identity and undermine and contravene her treatment for gender dysphoria. It would be so traumatic for her that she would not participate on the boys’ team."

The lawsuit names IPS and the superintendent. The district released the following statement to WRTV:

“IPS has consistently advocated for creating school communities that embrace and support all students, including our transgender and non-binary students. We oppose H.B. 1041 as an unnecessary restriction on our ability to provide fair and equitable access to athletics for all of our students. We agree with Governor Holcomb that this legislation does not provide a clear and consistent policy to ensure fairness in the state’s K-12 sports. We will review all legal options related to this matter.”


Lawmakers respond

State Rep. Michelle Davis (R-Whiteland), who authored the bill, says the vote was for "fairness, opportunity and safety."

"This issue stems from Hoosier parents like me who are concerned about our female athletes, and their opportunities to compete, earn top spots and obtain scholarships. This law is a commonsense approach to protect and preserve the integrity of girls' sports," said Davis in an email statement.

Democratic lawmakers also responded. Before the veto was overridden in the Senate, Senator J.D. Ford spent thirty minutes urging his colleagues not to override the governors veto. He and other democrats said the overriding the veto was a waste of tax payer dollars.

"We spend our time on these divisive issues these culture was issues but we don't actually spend our time doing anything for Hoosiers," said Senator J.D. Ford a Democrat Representing District 29. "We could have suspended the gas tax today.. not even suspended had a debate on it but we couldn't even do that. "

Speaker of the House Todd Huston also responded. He feels this policy protect women's sports.

"We are protecting girls sports thats what our focus of the bill is," said State Representative Todd Huston a Republican from Fishers. "We feel good, the Attorney General I understand feels good defending this is there is court action and we believe this is the right public policy for Indiana. "

"Today's action only strengthens the promise of Title IX, which has had the most profound impact on ensuring women have equal opportunity in sports for nearly 50 years. It's important for Indiana to not only recognize the contributions and achievements made by female athletes, but to also ensure those opportunities are secured now and in the future," said House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) in an email statement.

Indiana Senate Democrats released the following statement:

“Today, most members of the supermajority bent to extreme, right wing factions of their party and voted to codify discrimination against vulnerable Hoosier children. Our caucus, as well as certain Republicans, including Governor Holcomb, understand that this legislation is both cruel and unnecessary–we already have a process to deal with this on the very rare occasion it becomes an issue. This is just one more example of our reactionary supermajority sticking government where it doesn’t belong in order to further their private political agenda.”

“All Hoosier children, including trans kids, deserve our protection, care and love; there shouldn’t be anything political or controversial about that. It’s upsetting to see this body waste time and taxpayer money on bullying minors (and the resulting lawsuits), rather than on any number of policies to really protect women and kids like mental health spending, a state child tax credit or well-funded childcare. It’s short-sighted and a waste of Hoosier tax dollars—we’ll be glad to see this struck down in court.”

Indiana State Senate Democrats

In a letter to House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, Holcomb said the bill leaves too many unanswered questions for him to support the bill "even if I support the overall goal."

He said the presumption of the policy laid out in HEA 1041 is there is an "existing problem" requiring state intervention. He also pointed to a number of potential issues, including frustration among students, parents and administrators, lawsuits and lawsuits filed or threatened to have been filed in other states after similar legislation was passed.

He said HEA 1041 is unclear how consistency and fairness will be maintained for parents and students across different counties and school districts. Holcomb said he shares concerns and confusion raised by the Indiana High School Athletic Association during testimony about exactly who or how procedures will be established and maintained under the current bill.

"Meaning, student-athletes could be treated differently according to which school they attend and compete for," Holcomb wrote. "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."

Not a single "male seeking to participate on a female team has completed the process established" by the IHSAA policy, he said.

The latest By-Laws & Articles of Incorporation from the Indiana High School Athletic Association allow transgender student-athletes to obtain a waiver through IHSAA's Gender Policy to participate on single-gender athletic teams.

He said he is "heartened" by the IHSAA and its work to help maintain fairness and consistency in all sports.

"Nowhere in the testimony on this legislation was a critique leveled against their model on how to govern this and other complex matters," he wrote.

In response to Holcomb's veto, Paul Neidig, commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association, said the specific language of the bill did not "adequately address" the issues at hand.

"As Commissioner of the Association, I support Governor Holcomb’s decision regarding his veto of HB1041. Throughout the legislative process, I publicly expressed reservations with the proposed legislation only addressing a single gender and the grievance procedure," Neidig wrote.

"The Association appreciates the Governor's perspective in recognizing the IHSAA's gender policy, which was originally written in 2006 and updated in 2017. 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. Through Governor Holcomb’s
veto, this policy continues to allow the flexibility to assess competitive advantage in each unique case," he wrote.

Huston and State Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Greenwood, the bill's author, previously said in a press release they plan to override the veto during technical corrections day on May 24.

"The fundamental goal of this legislation is to protect competition in girls' sports, and House Republicans will vote to override this veto when lawmakers meet again on May 24," Huston said in the release. "This issue continues to be in the national spotlight and for good reason as women have worked hard for equal opportunities on the playing field – and that's exactly what they deserve."

Davis said the goal of HEA 1041 is to "maintain fair competition and integrity in girls' sports."

"Hoosier female athletes deserve the opportunity to win and lose on a level playing field," Davis said in the release. "Despite being equal, biological males and biological females both possess different genetic strengths and weaknesses. 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. This bill is especially important as we mark the 50th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX giving women athletes the right to an equal opportunity in sports. Hoosier girls deserve better and that's why I look forward to taking action to override this veto."

A spokesperson for the Indiana House Republicans said under state law, legislators can come back after the regular session for a technical corrections day. During this day, they can take up vetoes and other things.

The day, May 24, was set by Senate Concurrent Resolution 47.

A constitutional majority in the House and Senate can override a veto. For HEA 1041, it will need to be considered in the House first since it originated there first.

You can read the full letter from Holcomb below: