Republicans criticise Indiana governor for vetoing transgender sports ban


Indiana governor Eric Holcomb (AP)

Indiana governor Eric Holcomb (AP)

Indiana Republicans have not taken kindly to Governor Eric Holcomb’s decision to veto a bill that would have banned transgender women from participating in women’s school sports.

Mr Holcomb, a second-term Republican who succeeded former Vice President Mike Pence in the Indiana governor’s mansion in 2016, wrote in a letter explaining his veto decision that the bill would almost certainly face legal challenges and that its authors had not clearly shown what if any existing problem with girls sports in the state it would solve.

“[The bill] implies that the goals of consistency and fairness in competitive female sports are not currently being met,” Mr Holcomb wrote in a letter to the Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives. “After thorough review, I find no evidence to support either claim even if I support the overall goal.”

But his decision bucks a wave of anti-transgender legislation that has moved through Republican-controlled states across the country seeking to ban transgender athletes from competing against athletes who share their gender identity, deny transgender youth potentially lifesaving gender-affirming healthcare, and prosecute parents who support their transgender children.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, state legislators have already introduced a record-breaking 147 pieces of anti-transgender legislation this year. Eleven states have already passed bills banning transgender women from competing in women’s sports.

Mr Holcomb’s veto decision drew fierce criticism from the likes of Indiana Senator Mike Braun, who wrote on Twitter that “girls’ sports should be for girls” and said that he supports a veto override effort to make the bill law without Holcomb’s signature.

Jim Banks, a Republican who represents the state’s Fort Wayne-based congressional district, wrote that Mr Holcomb’s gesture stopped “a common sense bill that frankly doesn’t go far enough to Save Women’s Sports”.

The problem is, Mr Holcomb was unconvinced that transgender women really pose such an acute threat to women’s sports in Indiana. He noted, for instance, that the state did not have a single recorded case of a transgender athlete attempting to join a woman’s team.

Democrats, civil rights advocates, and LGBT+ leaders and their allies praised Mr Holcomb for standing against a bill they said was unnecessary and designed to intimidate a group of people that already faces elevated levels of bullying and harassment in the US.

“The bill’s proponents could not summon even a single example where someone was impacted as a result of transgender students participating in school sports, which they’ve done for decades across the country,” Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, said.

Organisations like the Human Rights Campaign and American Civil Liberties Union also paid homage to the many transgender and genderqueer Hoosiers who advocated against the bill.

Mr Holcomb got company on Tuesday, when Utah’s Republican governor Spencer Cox vetoed a similar bill, writing, “I am not an expert on transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion. I also try to get proximate and am learning so much from our transgender community. They are great kids who face enormous struggles.”

Mr Cox said that he expects his veto will be overridden this week. It remains to be seen whether events in Indiana will play out similarly.


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