Democratic Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have banned biological males from participating in female sports.
The legislation would have forced athletes at public institutions to play on sports teams based on biological gender rather than gender identity. The legislation passed by a vote of 29-6 in the Senate and 78-19 in the House, enough votes in both chambers to override the governor’s veto should the legislature chose to do so, according to The Advocate.
“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in a statement. “Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue.”
“Further, it would make life more difficult for transgender children, who are some of the most vulnerable Louisianans when it comes to issues of mental health. We should be looking for more ways to unite rather than divide our citizens,” he continued. “And while there is no issue to be solved by this bill, it does present real problems in that it makes it more likely that NCAA and professional championships, like the 2022 Final Four, would not happen in our state. For these and for other reasons, I have vetoed the bill.”
Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, a Republican, supports taking up the legislation again in a special session of Congress to override the governor’s veto. If a special override session is called, it would be the first in the history of Louisiana’s legislature.
“Article III Section 18 of the Louisiana Constitution is clear on the process to hold a veto session. It requires the majority of members of the House and Senate to be in agreement. While I do not have the authority to call one, I do support a veto session and I am in favor of overriding the governor’s veto of the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act (SB156) by Senator Mizell,” Schexnayder said in a statement.
Senate President Page Cortez, also a Republican, has not yet said whether he supports a special session to override the governor’s veto or not.
The issue of trans athletes in sports, specifically biological males participating in female sports, has gained traction recently as numerous states have passed laws forbidding athletes from playing sports based on how they identify. The issue has impacted athletes from high school up to the Olympics.
Earlier this week, male-to-female transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was picked to represent New Zealand at the Olympics to be held this summer in Tokyo. Hubbard, 43, is the oldest weightlifter expected to be competing in the games.
Hubbard’s inclusion in the upcoming games has sparked criticism from at least one other Olympian. Weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen called Hubbard’s participation “a bad joke.”
“I am aware that defining a legal frame for transgender participation in sports is very difficult since there is an infinite variety of situations, and that reaching an entirely satisfactory solution, from either side of the debate, is probably impossible,” Vanbellinghen said. “However, anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: this particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes.”
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