Louisiana lawmakers have passed a bill prohibiting transgender athletes from competing on sports teams based on their gender identity, reviving a debate over a similar measure that failed last year after it was vetoed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
On Tuesday, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill requiring athletes at all levels from elementary school through college to compete only on sports teams that match their assigned sex at birth. Opponents of the bill say it’s unnecessary and an election-year ploy, as the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, which governs high school sports, already has an identical requirement in place.
The bill passed 72-21, with all Republicans and seven Democrats, largely from more rural areas, voting in favor of the bill. One of the House’s three independents — who typically caucus with Republicans — voted against the measure.
Because the bill, which began in the Senate, was amended on the House floor to apply only to competitive sports, and not intramural sports, it now heads back to the Senate, which is expected to sign off on the language and send the measure to Edwards’ desk. The governor vetoed a nearly identical proposal last year, and says his stance has not changed, reports the Louisiana Illuminator.
Last year, the bill passed with 78 votes in favor, but several representatives changed their votes, falling short of the 70 votes needed to override a veto. It is unlikely a similar situation will occur this year, meaning the veto will likely be override and Louisiana will become the 18th state to place restrictions on trans athletes.
Supporters of the bill cited the victory of University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, who won the Division I women’s 500-yard freestyle title at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships earlier this year, as evidence of the need for the bill. They argue that transgender females who have undergone male puberty, like Thomas, hold an unfair competitive advantage over cisgender females.
Opponents argue that the restriction will send a message to transgender youth that they are not accepted and may lead them to suffer from loneliness and depression, with some youth even attempting suicide.
“All young people deserve an equal opportunity to participate in sports that enrich their education and help them grow up healthy and happy,” SarahJane Guidry, the executive director of Forum for Equality, said in a statement. “It’s beyond inappropriate for adult politicians to bully kids just because they are transgender. Governor Edwards vetoed this exact piece of legislation last year because discriminatory, anti-transgender bills are unacceptable government overreach. With the stroke of a pen, our governor has the chance to be a champion for young people again, and we press upon him again to do what is right.”
“We all want what’s best for our kids, and that includes a chance to play sports,” Peyton Rose Michelle, the secretary on the board of directors of LA Trans Advocates. “Participating in a school sport is an important way for kids to learn about teamwork, get exercise and make friends. Politicians should be ashamed of using children who simply want to play sports as political pawns.”
Michelle also urged Edwards to exercise his veto power, as did the Human Rights Campaign, which criticized the motivations behind the bill.
“Transgender kids have participated in school athletics for decades without cause for concern — because there is no real issue to be addressed,” Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s state legislative director and senior counsel, said in a statement. “Hundreds of college athletes, many prominent female athletes, and advocates for women in sports have stood up to anti-transgender sports laws like this one.
“This false narrative that Louisiana politicians are ‘defending’’women in sports is dangerous and misleading; they have cared about women’s sports for exactly as long as they’ve used it as a reason to attack LGBTQ+ people, and not a second longer,” Oakley added. “If they really cared about women’s sports, they’d address real problems: systemic racism and sexism, underfunding and lack of resources, or sexual harassment and assault from coaches. But instead, they are choosing to exclude and harm transgender youth for no reason other than to appeal to an extreme faction of their base.”
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