Legislators to consider veto override for trans athlete bill

INDIANAPOLIS — As the Tuesday one-day session for technical corrections approaches, the transgender sports bill veto awaits an override vote.

LGBTQ advocacy groups and the Indiana ACLU celebrated Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision to veto the bill, but the victory may not last long. Leaders from both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly have announced that they will vote to override Holcomb’s veto of House Enrolled Act 1041, a controversial bill barring transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports.

The veto gained national coverage for Holcomb from The New York Times, which highlighted him as a Republican governor disagreeing with a Republican-led legislature.

In the veto, Holcomb said that the Indiana High School Athletic Association already has a policy for transgender athletes and that the policy hasn’t been used.

House Speaker Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, has said the House will work to override the veto. Senate President Pro Tem Sen. Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said the Senate will consider the veto override if it is successful in the House.

Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, who touted the measure in a recent mailer as an effort to “protect equal opportunity in girls’ sports” told voters before the primary that he “will proudly vote to overturn the veto.”

Lauer, who is seeking a third term representing District 59, said the bill is needed “to protect the ability for girls to compete on a fair and level playing field” and gain college athletic scholarships.

Lauer suggested that if K-12 schools wanted to include athletes of different gender identities in the same sporting events, “there’s nothing stopping (them) from having co-ed sports and co-ed competitions.”

Lauer didn’t provide any examples of transgender girls in Indiana outperforming their cisgender peers, but pointed to an athlete at the University of Pennsylvania who recently became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship.

“Read the news,” Lauer said. “There have been a number of situations. There was a recent controversy of the swimmer recently in college sports. But I disagree that it’s not a real issue that needs to have a clear policy are from the state for our schools and athletic events from our schools. So, it is an issue nationally and in our state, and it’s, in my opinion, a highly political and cultural matter that requires, I believe, a policy to be clear about Indiana standing for the protection of girls sports.”

Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, who is also seeking re-election in November, was one of seven Republicans joining 11 Democratic senators voting against the bill in the Senate. He joined Ron Alting of Lafayette; Eric Bassler of Washington; Phil Boots of Crawfordsville; Liz Brown of Fort Wayne; Ed Charbonneau of Valparaiso; Chip Perfect of Lawrenceburg in voting against the measure.

According to Deseret News, 12 states had enacted laws that ban transgender students from participating in sports that match their gender identity as of March. An additional eight states were listed as ones with legislation to watch, including Indiana.

Just south of the state, Kentucky followed a similar path with the same legislation but with a Democratic governor. Unlike the Indiana bill, this bill included collegiate sports. Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto was overridden by a large margin.

Holcomb wasn’t the only Republican to veto this kind of legislation. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox also vetoed it but faces the same threat of an override.

Indiana’s bill was authored by Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland. Davis and other supporters of the legislation said its purpose is to keep girls’ sports fair.

It passed in the House 66-30 and in the Senate 32-18. Legislators just need a simple majority to override Holcomb’s veto.