INDIANAPOLIS — A bill that would have banned transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams was vetoed by Gov. Eric Holcomb Monday.
House Bill 1041 would have prohibited transgender girls from participating on sports teams at K-12 public schools designated for girls. It also would have established a civil action for violations and schools wouldn't be subject to civil, administrative, disciplinary or criminal liability for complying with it.
In a letter to House Speaker Todd Huston (R-District 37), Holcomb said "if it is the goal of HEA 1041 to provide clarity and one consistent state policy regarding the fairness in K-12 sports in Indiana, for me this current bill falls short."
"The wide-open nature of the grievance provisions in HEA 1041 that apply to all K-12 schools in Indiana makes it unclear about how consistency and fairness will be maintained for parents and students across different counties and school districts," Holcomb wrote in the letter. "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. 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."
Several rallies were held at the statehouse throughout the legislative session to oppose the bill. Groups such as the ACLU and The Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Indiana AAP) both shared their opposition with lawmakers.
The bill's author, State Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Greenwood, wanted it to protect fair competition for females.
"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," Davis said when the bill was going through the statehouse.
The ACLU of Indiana says it was "elated" and it was a "wonderful surprise" when the news of the veto came out. They believe Gov. Holcomb heard them and their reasoning through committee hearings.
"Throughout the process of this bill, what we've really seen is that these people who stand so much to lose, especially youth ... are still willing to stand up and be strong and be loud," Kit Malone, Advocacy Strategist at the ACLU of Indiana, said. "This victory really does belong to those youth who are able to see that they can participate in the process and that there is a path to trans people in Indiana to live an unfettered public life because that is what we want."
Malone says the trans community has been targeted for years at the statehouse and they are willing to thank conservatives for acknowledging their concerns.
"We are willing to thank you when you listen to us," Malone said. "We are definitely going to be there to fight ... we’re definitely going to be there to fight every single action the legislature takes to attack transgender people. We’re not going away. We take this as the victory that it is but we know that it’s just one point in a long road. We don’t know what’s next, even with this bill."
After the veto, the Indiana AAP told WRTV they are "thankful to Governor Holcomb for choosing to protect the health and well-being of all children in Indiana by vetoing HB 1041.”
Rep. Davis released the following statement Tuesday:
"The goal of House Enrolled Act 1041 is to maintain fair competition and integrity in girls' sports in Indiana. Hoosier female athletes deserve the opportunity to win and lose on a level playing field. 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."
Huston released the following statement Tuesday:
"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. 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."
The Indiana Democratic Party released the following statement on Monday evening:
“The moment the Indiana High School Athletic Association admitted there was no unfair advantage occurring in women’s sports, it became clear House Bill 1041 was more about fulfilling a made up culture war than actually creating a better future for Hoosier children. Indiana Republicans even admitted their goal was more about abiding by national politics than solving today’s problems facing kids - and it’s why they partnered with a national hate group to pass House Bill 1041.
It’s encouraging to see Governor Eric Holcomb tell his party that their culture wars have crossed the line. Signing House Bill 1041 into law would have put the lives of our children in jeopardy. However, this unnecessary debate has set a tone with kids that being transgender means something is wrong with them. It must be said that nothing is wrong and being transgender is exactly how God created you and is exactly who you are born to be. Indiana Democrats value and will advocate for the state’s transgender community, because they have a place in our state and future just as everyone else.” - Mike Schmuhl, Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party