On Wednesday, Republicans in the Louisiana House of Representatives failed to amass the number of votes needed to override a veto of a bill that would have banned transgender athletes from competing in sports consistent with their gender identity.
The House vote of 68-30 fell two votes shy of an override, and came a day after the Senate voted, 26-12 — amassing the minimum number of votes needed for an override — to overturn Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto.
The transgender ban was one of 28 bills being voted upon as the legislature held its first-ever veto override session since Louisiana adopted a new state Constitution in 1974, and was the chief impetus for Republicans who called for the override session, according to the conservative newspaper The Washington Times.
Edwards previously vetoed the bill in June, arguing that the measure was both discriminatory and unnecessary, as supporters of a ban on trans athletes couldn’t provide an example in Louisiana specifically where a transgender athlete outperformed a cisgender athlete, and the Louisiana High School Athletic Association already has a strictly-enforced rule prohibiting transgender high school student-athletes from competing on sports teams matching their gender identity.
Just prior to the Senate vote, the Louisiana-based newspaper The Advocate reported that the NCAA, the governing body in collegiate sports, had informed Edwards that the proposed ban violates the organization’s anti-discrimination policy, and might prompt NCAA leaders to yank the NCAA Final Four tournament from New Orleans.
The NCAA had previously warned in April, in response to similar bills introduced in more than three dozen states, that potential host cities were tasked with ensuring that NCAA-sponsored events are open and welcoming to all athletes and fans, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, among other characteristics. The NCAA previously relocated several sporting events from North Carolina in 2016 to protest an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” passed in that state.
Other major sporting organizations have taken similar actions in response to controversial laws, with Major League Baseball deciding to move the MLB All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver in protest of a Georgia bill that critics say imposes harsh restrictions on any form of voting that isn’t done in person on Election Day. Similarly, in 2016, the NBA moved its All-Star Game to New Orleans due to the controversy over the aforementioned bathroom bill in North Carolina.
Walt Leger, the executive vice president and general counsel for New Orleans & Company, a marketing agency promoting tourism to the New Orleans metro area, told CBS affiliate WWL-TV that the loss of any major events would be troubling to the city and the state, which are still rebounding from the decline in tourism experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s troubling. We have a very fragile but recovering economy in the City of New Orleans, in the state of Louisiana,” Leger said. “Anything that runs the risk of disrupting that recovery is problematic at this point.”
State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) said the law’s impact goes beyond the NCAA Final Four, sending a message to businesses that Louisiana is not an ideal place to relocate to or in which to expand operations due to its perceived hostility to potential LGBTQ or LGBTQ-friendly employees. She noted during debate in the Senate’s override session that 400 major corporations have come out publicly against laws like the transgender sports ban.
“Do you think that these businesses will feel comfortable in Louisiana, much less hosting their conventions in Louisiana, if we allow this bill to become law? Do you think?” she said. “You can’t have it both ways. You either want businesses to come to Louisiana or you can discriminate.”
But Senate President Pro Tem Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton), the sponsor of the anti-transgender sports bill, called the threat from the NCAA “extortion” and urged Republicans not to be swayed.
“If you have not heard the voices of the large majority of people in this state by emails, by phone calls, by personal visits, there’s no words I can give you.”
The Senate override session saw a group of six transgender advocates from the organization Real Name Campaign NOLA, who were protesting the proposed anti-transgender legislation at the State Capitol, forcibly removed from the House balcony by security.
David Eden Abraham, a Louisiana native and one of the protesters, accused the guards of being overly aggressive, pushing, shoving, and even putting some of the activists — who had been complying with their demands — in chokeholds. The protesters suffered no major injuries in the scuffle, according to the Louisiana Illuminator.
“Those of us who have been in public schools in Louisiana know how difficult public schools are and so it’s painful,” Abraham said of the proposed ban. “The bill they are trying to override the governor’s veto on would further exclude trans, gender nonconforming and intersex children from school programs, and Louisiana public schools are already not safe places for queer children. Trans youth belong in all aspects of education, including sports.”
The Human Rights Campaign celebrated the failure of the override vote, noting that it has already filed suit against a nearly identical ban in Florida and plans to introduce lawsuits in other states with transgender bans, such as Arkansas,, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
“Today, the Louisiana House failed to force a discriminatory anti-transgender sports ban bill into law. By doing so, transgender young people across the state have been saved from being targeted in a dangerous bill that denies them the fundamental right to be treated just like any other kid,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement.
“Sustaining Governor Bel Edwards’ veto by rejecting this arbitrary, discriminatory bill affirms the reality that transgender people have been playing sports for years without incident,” he added. “There is simply no basis — no evidence or local examples of the issue this bill was trying to address. This legislation was simply out, a dangerous waste of time, and Louisianans deserve a legislature that spends more time and energy on the issues that are actually plaguing the state and need addressing.”
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