Culture

LGBTQ+ Advocates Call on Louisiana Governor to Veto Trans Sports Ban


 

Governor John Bel Edwards signaled a probable veto of Louisiana’s bill limiting transgender sports access after it was approved by the legislature this week.

Senate Bill 156 was one of four anti-LGBTQ+ bills blasted by Edwards in April as “unnecessary” and “discriminatory.” The legislation, which would ban transgender female athletes from playing on women’s sports teams in school, was introduced alongside measures seeking to limit access to hormones and puberty blockers for trans youth. Edwards suggested he would not sign those bills into law if they crossed his desk, saying he was “concerned” about the impact on “emotionally fragile people.”

But in defiance of the Democratic governor’s statement, SB 156 was passed by both houses of the Louisiana Legislature by wide margins. In early May, the State Senate endorsed the bill by a 29-6 vote, and the House elected to send it to Edwards’ desk on Thursday by an equally resounding 78-19 margin.

According to Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate, members of the Louisiana House “stood and applauded after the tally was announced.”

Following the vote, Edwards’ office announced that his opinions on SB 156 had not changed over the past month. “As Gov. Edwards has stated before, this is not a problem in Louisiana today, and he is concerned about the impact it would have on those transgender youth who already are dealing with what can be a very emotional issue,” a representative said in a statement cited by The Advocate.

Edwards has not officially issued his veto of SB 156, as he has 10 days to do so, according to the local news site Louisiana Illuminator. LGBTQ+ advocacy groups called on the governor to stick to his guns and not allow the bill to become law. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said it hopes the governor “keeps his word.”

“This bill is nothing but another attempt to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and a step back for the entire state,” said Ryan Wilson, HRC’s associate regional campaign director in a statement, adding that “transgender children have been playing sports consistent with their gender identity for years.” “Numerous times — lawmakers have been asked to name specific instances or examples that would necessitate these types of bills. And numerous times — they have come up with nothing.”

It remains to be seen whether a veto will be enough to prevent SB 156 from becoming law, as the legislation advanced by veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate. According to The Advocate, Republicans could lose 8 votes in the House and three in the Senate and still overturn Edwards’ objection.

The publication claims, however, that “political dynamics often change during any override attempt and overrides are extremely rare in Louisiana.”

Should Republicans overrule Edwards’ veto, Louisiana wouldn’t be the first state to push through an anti-trans law over the protestation of its governor in 2021. After Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson quashed a bill banning gender-affirming care for trans youth in April, the Republican-majority legislature swiftly forced through House Bill 1570 anyway. All it takes to override a gubernatorial veto in Arkansas is the approval of 51% of state legislators.

Local advocacy groups who have been fighting on the front lines against SB 156 warned that forcing its enactment would be extremely harmful for trans youth in Louisiana. Pearl Ricks, executive director of Reproductive Justice Action Collective, said the bill is “based on disinformation, is unethical, denies human rights and basic dignity, and creates more space for harm and violence.”

“If signed into law in Louisiana this will open the door to ban trans and intersex youth from sports, create hostile environments for youth athletes, and will create limitless opportunities for abuse of youth athletes,” Ricks said in a statement.



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