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Indiana Lawmakers Pass Anti-Trans Sports Bill, Send to Governor

Girls playing basketball

The Indiana Senate Tuesday passed a bill barring transgender girls from participating in girls’ school sports, and since it was passed by the House in January, it now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Holcomb, a Republican, hasn’t said flat out that he’ll sign the bill into law, but he has implied it strongly. “I agree adamantly that boys should be playing boys’ sports and girls should be playing girls’ sports,” he told reporters last week, according to The Indianapolis Star. He wouldn’t say, however, if he considers trans girls to be girls, and he said he’d have to see the final language of the bill before deciding if he would sign it. But the language hasn’t changed since the January 27 House vote.

The bill states, “A male, based on a student’s biological sex at birth in accordance with the student’s genetics and reproductive biology, may not participate on an athletic team or sport designated under this section as being a female, women’s, or girls’ athletic team or sport.”

It applies to public schools and any private school that competes with public schools. It does not apply to transgender boys or to collegiate sports. It allows for students and parents to file grievances or civil lawsuits for violation.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association has a policy in place allowing trans youth to participate in the sports designated for their gender identity if they have lived as that gender for at least a year and, for girls, it states that they must have “completed a minimum of one year of hormone treatment related to gender transition or undergone a medically confirmed gender reassignment procedure.”

Only one trans girl has applied under the policy in recent years, the Star reports; other states have had similar experiences. But Republican Sen. Stacey Donato, one of the bill’s sponsors, said it doesn’t matter if it’s “one or 100.”

The Indiana Democratic Party has urged Holcomb to veto the bill. “It must be said that nothing is wrong and being transgender is exactly how God created you and is exactly who you are born to be,” said party chairman Mike Schmuhl, according to the Star.

Civil rights groups are speaking out against the legislation as well. “This bill is not solving any actual problem in Indiana, but it is causing harm to actual trans youth in Indiana,” Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, said in a press release. “This has been a tough week in an already tough month in an already tough year for trans youth across the United States. Lawmakers must take into account the devastating impact that these bills themselves — and the ugly debates surrounding them — are having on a group of young people already at disproportionate risk for bullying and suicide. We urge the governor to reject this bill and focus on any number of the real issues impacting Indiana.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana plans to sue if the bill becomes law, saying it is “hateful, harmful and appears to violate federal law and the Constitution,” the Star reports.

“This bill singles out trans girls by banning them from participating in girls’ sports, jeopardizing their mental health, physical well-being. and ability to access educational opportunities comparable to their peers,” Katie Blair, advocacy and public policy director for the organization, said in a statement.

South Dakota is the only state where an anti-trans sports bill has become law this year, but legislation is advancing in several other states. Last year such bills were signed into law in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia, while Idaho enacted such a law in 2020. The Idaho and West Virginia laws have been blocked by courts while suits against them proceed. Governors in Kansas, Louisiana, and North Dakota — two Democrats and one Republican, respectively — vetoed similar bills last year.

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