Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear vetoed a bill Wednesday that would prevent transgender girls and women from playing on girls’ high school and high school sports teams.
The state legislature, which is dominated by Republicans, could override the veto with a simple majority in both houses, and analysts expect lawmakers to do so when they meet again next Wednesday. The bill had passed easily through both chambers.
Mr. Beshear, a Democrat, vetoed the bill that the bill “discriminates against transgender children” and thus “most likely” violates the equal protections enshrined in the US Constitution. Republican governors in Utah and Indiana recently vetoed similar legislation, and the governors of Kansas, Louisiana and North Dakota did so last year.
The Utah legislature ignored the veto and became the 12th state to pass legislation banning young transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports. Republican lawmakers are also expected to override Indiana’s veto.
Republican sponsors and conservative activists have drafted the Kentucky Act, known as the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” as a defensive measure. If it becomes law, sports teams designated for girls in sixth through twelfth grade will “not be open to members of the male sex,” based on the child’s original birth certificate.
About being transgender in America
Proponents of the bill argue that biological differences, especially after puberty, can give transgender girls a physical advantage in sports over cisgender girls.
The Family Foundation, a Christian policy organization in Kentucky, expressed disappointment at the veto. “Kentucky girls and women deserve a fair playing field,” David Walls, the executive director, said in a statement.
“Biology is important, especially in sports,” said Mr Walls, who accused Mr Beshear of siding with “his awakened political base.”
An oft-cited 2017 report in the journal Sports Medicine, which reviewed eight research studies and 31 sports policies, found “no direct or consistent research” to suggest that transgender girls have an athletic advantage over their cisgender peers.
The Fairness Campaign, a state LGBTQ rights organization, has said it is aware of only one openly transgender student athlete in Kentucky. She started her school’s hockey team, said the group’s director, Chris Hartman.
“From the outset, this bill was more about fear than fairness,” Mr Hartman said in a statement.
The student, Fischer Wells, testified against the bill in February. If it succeeds, she said at the time, “it means I can’t play, and it will be very damaging to my mental health.”
“It’s disgusting that this bill is even being proposed,” she said at the time. “It’s terrible. And I’ve worked really hard and practiced so many hours.”
In his veto, Mr. Beshear pointed out that the bill “does not contain a single case in Kentucky of a child gaining a competitive advantage as a result of gender reassignment.” He also noted that the Kentucky High School Athletic Association recognized the right of transgender students to play interscholastic sports.
Education has become a primary issue as the country moves towards the midterm elections.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt both signed legislation last week banning transgender women and girls from playing on girls’ teams. And Republicans also have focused discussions on race and have tried to ban divisive books.
On Wednesday, Mr. Beshear also vetoed a bill that would, among other things, restrict the way teachers speak about race, racism and parts of American history in the classroom, one of a number of bans on what lawmakers have described. as “critical race theory.”