Louisiana Senate votes to override Governor John Bel Edwards on transgender women and girls athlete ban

This is the first ever veto override session lawmakers have ever called in Louisiana

By: - July 20, 2021 2:15 pm
State would determine appropriate medical treatments for trans minors 

Trans Pride flags | Ted Eytan via Flickr

The Louisiana Senate has voted again to prohibit transgender women and girls from participating in women and girls sports — overriding Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of  Senate Bill 156. The House will have to vote to override the governor, too, in order for the bill to become law.

The Senate vote was 26-12 Tuesday, with all Republicans present voting to override the governor and all Democrats opposing it. One senator, Lake Charles Republican Ronnie Johns, was absent after having surgery. Both the Senate and the House must pass the legislation with two-thirds of each chamber’s support to override the governor. 

A handful of Democrats who had voted in favor of the bill during the regular legislative session switched their votes to oppose the veto override. Edwards, a Democrat, had put significant pressure on Democrats to side with him against the veto override. 

Veto overrides in Louisiana are exceedingly rare. If the House goes along with the veto, it would be only the third gubernatorial veto override to occur in the history of the state. The previous two took place in the early 1990s. They concerned abortion restrictions and a minor budget issue. 

This is the first time Louisiana lawmakers have ever called themselves back into a veto override session in the modern history of Louisiana. The previous veto overrides happened during regular lawmaking sessions. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, is the author of the transgender athlete ban. She said the legislation is needed to protect women and girls from having to compete against transgender women and girls in sports — though there have been no reported problems with transgender girls and women competing in high school or college sports events in Louisiana.

Louisiana business leaders have publicly stated over the past couple of days that this law could negatively affect Louisiana’s ability to attract major conferences, conventions and athletic events. Some organizations are refusing to do business in states that pass laws that the businesses believe discriminate against transgender people. Transgender advocates consider this legislation discriminatory. 

Specifically, the NCAA has suggested it would consider pulling sports events from states that pass laws they believe are discriminatory toward transgender people. New Orleans is scheduled to host the NCAA Mens Basketball Final Four tournament in 2022. There’s also concern that the film industry will avoid Louisiana if a transgender athlete ban becomes law. 

“You can’t have it both ways. You either want business to come to Louisiana or you want to discriminate,” said Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who opposed the bill and the veto override.

But Mizell characterized threats from the NCAA to pull sporting events from Louisiana as “extortion.”

“There’s a lot more going on in Louisiana that makes us less attractive [to business investment] than this bill,” Mizell said.

Sen. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, also tried — but failed — to override Edwards’ veto of his legislation to allow people to carry concealed guns without training. The vote on that bill with 23-15, three votes short of what is needed for an override. All the Senate Democrats and three Republican Senators — Patrick Connick, Louie Bernard and Franklin Foil — voted against the legislation.

No other bills are expected to get enough votes for a successful override in the Senate. Connick, R-Marrero, said he was unwilling to vote for a veto override on any other bill besides the transgender athlete ban. Without Connick’s support, Republicans can’t achieve the two-thirds vote needed to overturn Edwards’ other vetoes on a partisan basis.

Correction: This article originally said the Senate voted 23-12 to override the governor’s veto of Sen. Jay Morris’ gun rights legislation. The Senate voted 23-15 for the bill, three votes short what was needed for a successful override. We regret the error. 

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.