Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has vetoed a bill that would bar transgender girls and women from female school sports teams, but legislators could still override his veto.
The anti-trans Senate Bill 83, Beshear wrote in a veto message Wednesday, is not only discriminatory but ignores the steps taken by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to assure that no student-athlete who has an unfair advantage can compete. Under the association's policy, a post-pubescent trans female must take hormonal therapy for a sufficient length of time to minimize any gender-related advantage. Lawmakers behind the bill did not cite a single instance of the KHSAA's policy being ineffective, he said. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has a similar policy (SB 83 would apply to students from sixth grade through college).
"Transgender children deserve public officials' efforts to demonstrate that they are valued members of our community through compassion, kindness, and empathy, even if not understanding," he added.
The bill passed both the Kentucky House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, however. Both chambers are dominated by Republicans. The legislature will reconvene next week and could override Beshear's veto, The Courier-Journal of Louisville notes.
LGBTQ+ rights groups praised Beshear's action and urged legislators not to override his veto.
"Governor Beshear did the right thing today vetoing this bill -- a bill that would only cause problems, not solve them, by singling out Kentucky's transgender children for exclusion and discrimination in their own schools," Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley said in a press release. "With the well-being of transgender youth in the balance, Governor Beshear lived up to Kentucky values and to his catchphrase 'Team Kentucky.' We urge lawmakers to uphold the veto because transgender children, like all Kentucky children, deserve better than being treated as political pawns -- what they deserve is to be able to have fun with their friends, exercise, and learn how to be part of a team. This veto is a strong statement of Kentucky values and the legislature must allow it to stand."
"I applaud Governor Beshear for doing the right thing today and vetoing a harmful piece of legislation that would deprive transgender girls and young women of the opportunity to grow and learn from being on a team, simply because of who they are," added Chris Hartman, executive director of Kentucky's Fairness Campaign. "From the start, this bill has been more about fear than fairness. In Kentucky's entire school system, there is only one openly transgender girl we know about who is playing on a school sports team. That student started her school's field hockey team, recruited all of the other team members, and just wants the opportunity to play with her friends during her eighth-grade year. But rather than tackle any of the state's real issues, legislators decided to use their time and power to bully this student and others like her. While we are pleased with the governor's actions today, the rights of transgender people in Kentucky are still in danger. We urge state lawmakers to follow the lead of Governor Beshear and show compassion to transgender people in our commonwealth by not overriding this veto."
Republican governors in Utah and Indiana recently vetoed trans-exclusionary sports bills, but legislators in Utah overrode the veto. Last year, Democratic governors in Kansas and Louisiana and the Republican governor of North Dakota vetoed similar measures.
Beshear Wednesday also vetoed Senate Bill 1, which dealt with school hiring policies and outlined how schools should teach U.S. history, especially history involving racial issues. It "tries to police classroom discussions on topics such as race," Beshear wrote in his veto message, and "mandates that a specific set of documents and speeches be incorporated into classroom work." Included alongside Supreme Court opinions and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is Ronald Reagan's 1964 speech on behalf of that year's Republican presidential nominee, "A Time for Choosing." The fact that Reagan's speech is included over many others indicates that the bill "is aimed more at politics than history," Beshear said, adding that it "excludes the full spectrum of diverse voices that make up our history, including Native American voices." The bill passed by a narrow margin, so an override of the governor's veto is less likely than with the anti-trans bill.