Respect Equality

Louisiana legislature sends transgender athlete ban to the governor’s desk

A similar measure was shot down by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) last year.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks in Baton Rouge, La., Feb. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File)

Story at a glance

  • The Louisiana legislature on Monday sent another transgender athlete ban to the governor’s desk.

  • Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has not yet indicated whether he will veto the measure, but has said he considers it “unnecessary.”

  • Even if Edwards decides to issue a veto, the bill may have enough support from the legislature to override the governor’s decision.

The Louisiana legislature on Monday passed a measure to ban transgender women and girls through college from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity, sending the legislation to the governor’s desk for either a signature or a veto.

The measure, titled the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, would require Louisiana K-12 schools, as well as universities, to designate sports teams according to the “biological sex of the team members.”

“Teams designated for females are not open to participation by biological males,” the measure, sponsored by Louisiana Senate President Pro Tempore Beth Mizell (R), reads. Mizell’s bill does not include a similar clause for athletes assigned female at birth.

Proponents of the Louisiana bill — and measures like it — have argued that inherent biological differences between those assigned male and female at birth give transgender women and girls an automatic unfair advantage over cisgender women and girls in sports, alleging cisgender athletes are having athletic opportunities ripped away from them.

States have been pursuing transgender athlete bans since 2020, but efforts have ramped up this year, in part because of the highly publicized victories of the transgender collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas, who in March became the first transgender woman to win a national title in Division I athletics.

“Biological women deserve a fair level of competition intended for biological women,” Mizell wrote in a Facebook post in March about Thomas’ win. “Women, let your voices be heard.”

A nearly identical bill — also introduced by Mizell — was vetoed last year by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who said the measure was targeted unfairly at children and poses a solution for a nonexistent problem.

“This legislation will make life more difficult for children who are going through unique challenges gaining acceptance into their schools, communities, and sometimes even their own families,” Edwards wrote in a veto message at the time. “It should be our role, as leaders in this state, to reach out to and lift up these children, rather than to ostracize them.”

Edwards argued that the measure was especially unnecessary because an existing Louisiana High School Association policy states that student athletes may only compete on sports teams that match the gender listed on their birth certificate. The policy does not apply to transgender students who have undergone gender-affirming surgeries, which are not recommended for minors.

Edwards has not indicated whether he will veto this year’s copy, but on his “Ask the Governor” radio program last week said the legislature’s removal of a clause banning transgender athletes from intramural competition was a step in the right direction.

“I still believe it’s unnecessary,” Edwards said.

But even if Edwards were to veto the measure, Louisiana could still become the ninth state this year to pass a law preventing transgender athletes from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity. Unlike last year, this year’s bill passed in both the House and Senate with enough votes to override a veto, should Edwards choose to issue one.