Louisiana Legislature fails to overturn governor’s veto of transgender athlete ban

Lawmakers have only overturned a governor’s veto two times in the history of the state

By: - July 21, 2021 2:47 pm
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Louisiana will not ban transgender women and girls from participating in women and girls sports — despite efforts of the conservative Christian organizations and the House Republican leadership to push through a new law to do so.

The Louisiana Legislature failed to overturn Edwards’ veto of a transgender athlete ban (Senate Bill 156) Wednesday after the House fell two votes short of the 70 votes needed to override a governor. Several business groups and the governor’s office had said such move would have potentially affected the state’s ability to attract major business conferences and sporting events.

The Louisiana Senate had voted for to override the governor’s veto Monday on a partisan basis. All Republican senators voted in favor of the legislation and the Democrats voted against it. But in the House, the Republicans don’t have enough votes to override a veto without getting the support of independents or Democrats. In the end, the GOP couldn’t get enough Democrats and independents to go against the governor’s wishes to overturn Edwards’ veto.

In Louisiana, gubernatorial overrides are very rare. It has only happened twice before — in 1991 and 1993. Edwards, a Democrat, leaned hard on lawmakers in his own party not to overturn his decision on the transgender athlete ban. Several Democrats and one independent had previously supported the legislation, but they ended up flipping their votes and siding with the governor on the override issue.

“I’m going to say pressure — and I’ll leave it at that,” said Rep. Roy Daryl Adams, an independent from St. Francisville, when asked why he voted against the override Wednesday.

Adams had voted in favor of the legislation in the regular lawmaking session, before opposing the veto override. He was one of three members whose votes were considered “up for grabs” as late as Wednesday morning. The other two — Democrats Chad Brown of Plaquemine and C. Travis Johnson of Vidalia — also ended up voting against the override.

Edwards vetoed the legislation because he said he was concerned about the impact it might have on vulnerable people, especially transgender children. He also thought it might cause corporations, major business conventions, film companies and sports leagues to boycott the state. Louisiana is particularly reliant on major sporting and music events — college championships, professional sports events and music festivals — for revenue. 

No one is aware of any transgender women and girls participating in women’s and girls’ sporting events in Louisiana currently. Even supporters of the bill admitted there is no immediate concern over transgender sports participation in the state.

Advocates for the legislation had said the bill was needed to protect women and girls from transgender people trying to play women’s and girl’s sports in the future. They believe transgender women and girls have a biological advantage over other women and girls. That goes against the practice of major sports bodies, like the NCAA and Olympics — where transgender women are allowed to compete in women’s events as long as they take medication to suppress testosterone for over a year before they compete. 

Those who opposed the legislation were afraid Louisiana will be viewed as discriminating against transgender people if the bill passed. That could have caused business groups and others to avoid coming to the state — which is heavily dependent on tourism revenue.

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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.