Louisiana is now the 18th state to pass an anti-transgender school sports law after Gov. John Bel Edwards allowed a bill to become law without his signature.
Edwards, a moderate Democrat, vetoed such a bill last year. Legislators passed one again this year with a veto-proof majority, and Edwards said Monday that since any veto would be overridden, he would neither veto nor sign the bill. So it will become law and will go into effect August 1.
The governor said at a news conference that he was reluctantly letting the legislation pass. “Whether it’s intended or not,” the measure will “send a strong message to at least some of these young people that they shouldn’t be who they think they are, who they believe they are, who they know that they are,” he said, according to NBC News. “And I find that very distressing. I do believe that we can be better than that.”
“I think it’s unfortunate, but it is where we are,” he added. “And I hope we can all get to a point soon where we realize that these young people are doing the very best that they can to survive.” He also noted there “hasn’t been a single instance in Louisiana of a trans girl participating in sports.”
The measure, Senate Bill 44, bars trans girls and women from competing on interscholastic and intercollegiate sports teams designated for females. It affects both public schools and any private schools that receive state funds. It does not affect intramural sports, and it does not restrict participation by trans males.
Edwards is the first Democratic governor to let such a bill become law. Democratic governors Laura Kelly of Kansas and Andy Beshear of Kentucky have vetoed anti-trans sports bills, Kelly having done so twice, but in Kentucky, lawmakers overrode Beshear’s veto. Republican governors Eric Holcomb of Indiana, Doug Burgum of North Dakota, and Spencer Cox of Utah have also vetoed them, with Holcomb’s and Cox’s vetoes overridden.
“Governor Edwards’ decision betrays his LGBTQ+ constituents and fails the transgender youth who were counting on his leadership,” said a statement from Cathryn Oakley, the Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director and senior counsel. “Earlier this year, multiple Republican governors defied likely veto overrides to defend transgender youth. Allowing this discriminatory bill to become law sends a dangerous message that protecting Louisiana’s transgender youth isn’t a priority.
“We stand by Louisianans who feel betrayed by a governor who promised to fight for all Louisianans, including the LGBTQ+ community. The radical politicians that engineered this bill are targeting kids who just want to play sports for the same reason all students do — to learn the values of teamwork, to face healthy competition, and to have fun. These children were failed by their leaders.”
Besides Kentucky, Indiana, Utah, and now Louisiana, states that have enacted trans sports bans are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. The Idaho and West Virginia laws are blocked by courts while lawsuits against them proceed.