Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed a bill barring transgender girls from competing on female-designated sports teams.
Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature overwhelmingly approved the bill, with the House approving it by a 70-23 vote and the Senate approving it by a 26-9 margin. The bill, which bars transgender females from participating in sports that match their gender identity, applies to students in sixth grade through college.
Beshear vetoed the bill, saying that the Kentucky High School Athletic Association already has a nuanced policy regarding transgender participation in sports. Under that policy, student-athletes must compete in sports designated for the gender listed on their birth certificate, unless they’ve legally changed their gender, and must provide documentation attesting to that fact.
The policy says that a transgender athlete is eligible to compete on sports teams matching their gender identity when they have changed their gender prior to undergoing puberty, or, if they have already undergone puberty, when they have undergone gender confirmation surgery, including genital surgery, and have completed a course of hormone therapy “for a sufficient length of time to minimize gender-related advantages in sports competition.” If a student-athlete stops hormone treatments, they must participate in the sport matching their assigned sex at birth.
In issuing his veto, Beshear accused the General Assembly of “disregarding” the KHSAA’s existing policy and imposing a complete ban for political purposes. He also cited vetoes of similar bills by Republican governors in Indiana and Utah, expressing concerns that an across-the-board ban would trigger costly lawsuits against the state, reports Cincinnati-based NBC affiliate WLWT.
Beshear said the bill violates student-athletes’ rights to equal protection under law because it would likely be found to be discriminatory, leaving the state on the hook for the costs associated with the lawsuit. Similar bans in Idaho and West Virginia have been blocked from taking effect by federal judges.
Rep. Killian Timoney (R-Lexington), who voted against the bill, told the Lexington Herald-Leader the state is likely to be sued once the bill becomes law.
“Ninety-six percent chance we’re going to get sued when we pass this,” Timoney said. “I’m not sure I feel like spending money on lawsuits.”
Republican lawmakers are expected to override Beshear’s veto, which only requires a simple majority vote in both chambers — making it all but certain the bill will become law.
Opponents of the bill have noted, in testimony during legislative hearings and since passage of the bill, that it seeks to solve a problem that has not yet emerged in Kentucky — in part due to the stringent eligibility requirements imposed by the KHSAA.
Chris Hartman, the executive director of the Kentucky Fairness Campaign, said the bill was “more about fear than fairness,” and that he knows of only one out transgender girl playing sports in Kentucky.
“I applaud Governor Beshear for doing the right thing today and vetoing a harmful piece of legislation that would deprive transgender girls and young women of the opportunity to grow and learn from being on a team, simply because of who they are,” Hartman said in a statement.
Samuel Crankshaw, a spokesman for the ACLU of Kentucky, praised Beshear’s actions.
“By vetoing this hateful legislation, Governor Beshear has demonstrated his commitments to protect Kentucky children’s Constitutional rights and uphold Title IX of the Civil Rights Act,” Crankshaw said in a statement. “This bill is a solution in search of a non-existent problem. Enacting Senate Bill 83 into law would jeopardize our children’s mental health, physical well-being, and ability to access educational opportunities comparable to their peers.”
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