Governors in Two States Veto Anti-Trans Bills Amid Legislative Blitz

Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas (leff) vetoed a bill banning transgender students from school sports.
Reuters/John Whitesides

Transphobic bills are dying in some State Legislatures, moving forward in others, and getting vetoed altogether in states like North Dakota and Kansas, where governors have nixed legislation that would have restricted transgender student-athletes from playing on a school sports team that aligns with their gender identity.

On April 21, Republican Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota stated that approving his state’s anti-trans sports bill, HB 1298, would lead to several “unforeseen consequences” and said there is “no evidence” that transgender athletes pose a danger to women’s and girls’ sports.

Burgum pointed to existing policies surrounding trans athletes as he explained his decision.

“To date, there has not been a single recorded incident of a transgender girl attempting to play on a North Dakota girls’ team,” he noted. “Further, the NDHSAA (North Dakota High School Activities Association) already has regulations in place for participation in sex-separated interscholastic contests by transgender students.”

Meanwhile, on April 22, Democratic Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas halted Senate Bill 55, or the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which would limit membership on girls’ sports teams to individuals assigned female at birth.

Kelly said approving this measure would negatively impact transgender people and businesses in the state.

“This legislation sends a devastating message that Kansas is not welcoming to all children and their families, including those who are transgender — who are already at a higher risk of bullying, discrimination, and suicide,” Kelly said in a written statement.

She added, “This bill would also undoubtedly harm our ability to attract and retain businesses. It would send a signal to prospective companies that Kansas is more focused on unnecessary and divisive legislation than strategic, pro-growth lawmaking.”

Meanwhile, an effort to ban trans athletes in Texas seems to have faltered, according to Hearst Newspapers in San Antonio, which reported that an anti-trans sports bill is likely to die at the committee level.

In Montana, the State Legislature approved an anti-trans sports ban and sent the legislation to Governor Greg Gianforte’s desk. Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David ripped the bill, saying children in the state “deserve better than this targeted discrimination. He warned Gianforte to avoid signing the bill.

“As Gianforte considers this legislation, he should take heed of the catastrophic consequences that other states have faced after passing anti-transgender legislation — including economic harm, expensive taxpayer-funded legal battles, and a tarnished reputation,” David said.

In other states, bills are hanging in the balance.

The Arkansas House of Representatives passed HB1749, a bill allowing educational institutions to misgender trans students. According to the bill’s text, teachers “shall not be required to use a pronoun, title, or other word to identify a public school student as male or female that is inconsistent with the public school student’s biological sex.”

Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, denounced the measure push as a “cruel” attack on the transgender community in a state that became the first to ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth.

“This is another shameful political attempt on trans youth in Arkansas,” Dickson said in a written statement. “It hurts absolutely no one to show basic respect and refer to a person in the most accurate and affirming way. And we know that this affirmation makes a difference in the lives of trans youth by reducing thoughts of suicide and reducing bullying from classmates.”

After clearing the lower chamber, the bill was referred to the Senate Education Committee.

In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey’s office is facing a decision on whether to sign a bill banning transgender student-athletes from school sports teams. HB391, which passed through the State Legislature, uses transphobic language and gendered stereotypes to back the discriminatory restrictions.

“No public K-12 school may participate in, sponsor, or provide coaching staff for interscholastic athletic events at which athletes are allowed to participate in a competition against athletes who are of a different biological gender,” according to the bill’s text. 

A spokesperson for Governor Ivey told AL.com that the office plans to “thoroughly review it.” However, if approved, the NCAA college basketball tournaments in Birmingham, Alabama could be moved out of state.

Dillon Nettles, policy and advocacy director with the ACLU of Alabama, blasted the legislation as part of a growing effort to dismantle trans rights.

“The passage of HB391 is consistent with the attacks that we’ve been seeing across the country towards trans youth and really their families as well,” Nettles said in a written statement. “These bills are going to have severe negative consequences for the outcomes of trans youth, from their social development to even their ability to build relationships with their classmates and peers.”

Nettles added, “Right now, families must make decisions about [whether] Alabama will be a safe place to raise their children because lawmakers are making decisions that are hostile toward their identity and livelihoods.”

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