Respect Equality

Kentucky governor vetoes bill seeking to ban transgender girls from athletics

The veto is expected to be overridden by the state legislature.
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Story at a glance

  • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Wednesday vetoed a bill to prevent transgender women and girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity.

  • The bill would have required transgender athletes to play on gendered sports team consistent with their sex assigned at birth, or that which is listed on their original birth certificate.

  • Dozens of bills barring transgender athletes from participating comfortably in school sports have been introduced in state legislatures nationwide.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have barred transgender women and girls in the state from playing on school sports teams consistent with their gender identity. The state legislature is expected to override Beshear’s veto next week.

Kentucky’s “Save Women’s Sports Act” would have mandated that school sports teams through college designated as “girls” teams “not be open to members of the male sex.” The bill had defined “sex” as that which is listed on an individual’s original birth certificate, meaning even trans women and girls who have corrected their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity would be prohibited from competing on an all-girl’s sports team.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the bill, by including collegiate athletics, would have run afoul of NCAA rules, threatening Kentucky’s participation in NCAA sports and championship events. It also could have been challenged for violating Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex or gender identity, as similar laws in West Virginia and Idaho have been.

In a statement on Wednesday, Chris Hartman, the executive director of the Kentucky-based Fairness Campaign, said the bill had been “more about fear than fairness,” as the measures supporters have argued.

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“In Kentucky’s entire school system, there is only one openly transgender girl we know playing on a school sports team,” Hartman said. “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.”

Hartman added that, despite Beshear’s veto, the rights of transgender people in Kentucky are still at risk, and called on state legislators to “show compassion” by refraining from overriding the governor’s action.

Dozens of bills to bar transgender athletes from school sports have been introduced in statehouses across the country this year. While Republican governors in Utah and Indiana vetoed similar legislation late last month, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) last week signed into law bills to bar trans women and girls from school athletics.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s (D) veto was overridden shortly after by the state legislature.

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