‘Discrimination is not a Louisiana value’: Governor vetoes anti-trans athlete bill

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Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards speaks during a press conference to update the public on FEMA’s disaster recover and temporary housing programs on August 19, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The governor has vetoed a bill seeking to bar transgender youth from participating on girls’ and women’s sports teams. (Getty Images)
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards speaks during a press conference to update the public on FEMA’s disaster recover and temporary housing programs on August 19, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The governor has vetoed a bill seeking to bar transgender youth from participating on girls’ and women’s sports teams. (Getty Images)

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards vetoed legislation on Tuesday that sought to bar transgender youth from participating in girls’ and women’s school sports teams.

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value,” Mr Edwards, a Democrat, said in a statement on the decision.

Noting that “there wasn't a single case” in his state “where this was an issue,” the governor said: “This bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana.”

He also said the measure would “make life more difficult for transgender children, who are some of the most vulnerable Louisianans when it comes to issues of mental health”.

“We should be looking for more ways to unite, rather than divide our citizens,” Mr Edwards said.

The bill had made its way onto the governor’s desk desk after being pushed forward in Louisiana’s Republican-led legislature.

Under the legislation, schools would have been protected from discrimination lawsuits if they blocked transgender students from joining girls’ and women’s sports teams.

Meanwhile, cisgender athletes, or those whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth, would be be able to sue if they felt they had been “deprived of an athletic opportunity” due to the participation of a transgender peer.

Supporters of the bill claimed that the measure would protect young women from having to face “unfair” competition at sporting events.

Critics of the legislation, however, including Mr Edwards, say it and others measures like it plainly discriminate against an already marginalised group.

In a statement on Twitter, the American Civil Liberties Union in Louisiana welcomed Mr Edwards’ decision, saying: “We’ll keep saying it: Trans youth belong in sport. Trans youth belong in Louisiana. Trans youth belong everywhere.”

Still, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association does have a rule in place that requires student athletes to compete “in the gender of their birth certificate unless they have undergone sex reassignment”.

And it is also unclear whether lawmakers will try to call for a special veto session to try to override Mr Edwards’ decision to reject the bill.

The regular legislative session is over, however, and Louisiana has never before held a veto override session under the current constitution adopted in 1974, according to NPR.

In the past year alone, several states have passed laws or implemented executive orders restricting the ability of transgender young people to play sports or receive gender-affirming treatment and procedures.

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