Louisiana Legislature sends transgender sports ban to governor’s desk

John Bel Edwards has already said he will veto the legislation

By: - May 27, 2021 2:07 pm
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Ted Eytan via Flickr

The Louisiana Legislature has voted for a ban on transgender women and girls participating in women and girls sports. Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly supported Senate Bill 156. The chambers passed the measure with over two-thirds of lawmakers in favor, a veto-proof majority.

Conservative lawmakers stood up and cheered when the bill passed in the House Thursday. It has been several years since conservatives have been able to get a new restriction on the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community through the Louisiana Legislature.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has already said he will veto the legislation, but there is an open question about whether legislators will still be in session when that happens. If they are, lawmakers are much more likely to push a veto override that would allow the bill to become law.

The legislation gives cisgender girls and women an opportunity to sue if they feel like they have been treated unfairly because transgender girls and women are participating in a sport with them. It creates a new cause of action for a lawsuit against schools, school boards and sports organizations who allow transgender women and girls to participate in women and girls sports.

Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Jefferson, said the legislation is about protecting women’s sports. She said she was worried that “biological males” — which is how she described transgender girls and women — will take over girls and women’s sports.

Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, disagreed. She said the legislation is discriminatory and will harm children who are already marginalized and at high risk of suicide.

There aren’t any cases in which a transgender girl or woman has disrupted sports in Louisiana. The Louisiana High School Athletic Association has strict rules that transgender advocates say make it impossible for transgender students — both boys and girls — to participate on the sports teams they manage.

The legislation is at odds with the transgender policies of the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee, which both allow transgender women and girls in competition as long as they have medical treatment to suppress their testosterone.

New Orleans tourism officials have said the legislation could damage the state’s economy. Sports leagues, business groups and major conventions have shown a willingness to boycott states that enact policies they consider discriminatory. The NBA pulled an event from North Carolina in 2016 after it enacted a law restricting transgender people’s use of bathrooms.

Edwards, a Democrat, has 10 days from when he receives the bill to veto it and 12 days from when he receives the bill to notify the Legislature of his veto — at which point the lawmakers could attempt a veto override. But it’s not clear whether the lawmakers will still be in session when the opportunity for a veto override occurs. If they are, the legislation would stand a much better chance of becoming law. 

The Legislature doesn’t adjourn until June 10, so there’s a possibility that Edwards will be forced to veto the legislation while lawmakers are still in session. It’s unclear when the governor might receive the bill. The legislative procedural process may delay the governor receiving the bill until early next week, which could mean he wouldn’t have to veto the legislation before the lawmaking session adjourns. That would make it much more likely that the veto would stand.

Lawmakers do have the opportunity to attempt a veto override outside of the regular legislative session. They can vote to call themselves back into a special session in Baton Rouge to do veto overrides, but that is less likely. In the modern history of Louisiana, lawmakers have never called themselves back to Baton Rouge for a veto override session once their regular session has adjourned. 

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.