Gov. John Bel Edwards Vetoes Ban on Trans Athletes: Issue ‘Does Not Exist in Louisiana’

LSU president F. King Alexander, left, chats with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, center, and Edwards' wife, Donna, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between Oklahoma and LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. Oklahoma won 77-75. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
AP Photo/Bill Feig

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have prohibited biological men and boys from competing against women and girls in sports events in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools.

Bel Edwards vetoed Senate Bill 156, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, on the final day of the regular legislative session, claiming transgender athletes do not exist in his state.

“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,” the governor said in his veto message.

“Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue,” he added.

The governor added:

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. 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.

The bill, nevertheless, passed in the state Senate, by a vote of 29-6, and in the state House, 78-19, margins that are veto-proof. As the Associated Press (AP) reported, it is unclear if enough state lawmakers will call for a special veto session.

Regarding critics who claimed the bill was discriminatory, its author, State Sen. Beth Mizell (R), said during debate, “Nobody wants to treat anyone with inequity, but there is not an equal situation physically.”

Mizell also resisted the reasoning of Bel Edwards and other opponents of the measure who insisted it is unnecessary because Louisiana has no specific examples of transgender athletes.

“I don’t know why we’d want to wait until the state is in a lawsuit with a school or a family,” she said, according to AP.

LGBTQ activist organization the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) applauded Bel Edwards’ veto, referring to the bill as “cruel and discriminatory legislation.”

“Gov. Bel Edwards’ veto of this discriminatory bill will prevent further discrimination towards transgender children in Louisiana,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “SB 156 was nothing more than a politically motivated bill that seeks to dehumanize transgender children.”

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