(CN) — The GOP-dominated Indiana Legislature forced the passage of a bill targeting transgender student-athletes in a one-day technical session on Tuesday, overriding a March veto by Republican Governor Eric Holcomb.
The bill, known as HEA 1041, bars transgender girls - assigned male at birth but who identify as girls - from participating in K - 12 girls' sports teams.
The Indiana House voted 67-28 to overturn the veto and the Senate confirmed 32-15 on Tuesday afternoon.
Besides banning transgender girls from playing on student sports teams, HEA 1041 also compels public and private schools in Indiana to create a "grievance procedure" by July 1 this year, when the new law takes effect.
Through the procedure, any school found to be allowing transgender girls to participate on girls' sports teams can be hit with civil litigation and a fine of up to $1,000. Likewise, it shields schools that block transgender girls' participation from civil rights suits.
Holcomb vetoed the bill in March after it passed through both houses of the Indiana General Assembly, partly over objections to the grievance procedure.
“First, as to process, the wide-open nature of the grievance provisions in HEA 1041 that apply to all K-12 schools in Indiana makes it unclear about how consistency and fairness will be maintained for parents and students across different counties and school districts…Meaning, student-athletes could be treated differently according to which school they attend and compete for,” the governor wrote in a letter accompanying his veto.
Holcomb also said that the bill was a solution looking for a problem. The bill's proponents hold that when children who are born male play on girls' teams, they give their teams an unfair advantage over those composed entirely of cisgender girls - those born biologically female. But while the state's total youth population was north of 1.5 million in 2020, the Indiana Youth Institute found only about 3,350 Hoosiers aged 13 to 17 identified as transgender. An even smaller fraction identify as binary transgender girls, and only a fraction of that fraction would be enrolled in girls' sports teams.
The National Library of Medicine also found in 2013 that less than 1% of K-12 student athletes of any gender identity go on to compete at any elite level.
“The presumption of the policy laid out in [the bill] is that there is an existing problem in K-12 sports in Indiana that requires further state government intervention. It implies that the goals of consistency and fairness in competitive female sports are not currently being met. After thorough review, I find no evidence to support either claim even if I support the overall goal,” Holcomb wrote in March.
Holcomb defended his opposition to the bill in a statement Tuesday.
“My position hasn’t changed. There remains zero cases and the process, which is managed by IHSAA, is working. I stand behind my decision to veto HB 1041," he said.
Republican state Representatives Chris Jeter and Michelle Davis, the bill's co-authors, are nevertheless ideologically committed to HEA 1041. Jeter pledged in March to whip the votes necessary to overturn Holcomb's veto.
On Tuesday, Davis said the bill would "ensure the integrity" of girls' sports.
"The purpose of this legislation is to ensure the integrity of girls' sports, now and in the future," she said. Besides her comments, no debate on the issue was held before the vote.
In the state Senate, where there was a floor debate, Republican Senator Stacey Donato also spoke in favor of the bill. She waved off Holcomb's objections as irrelevant to the spirit of the bill.
"This bill is about protecting fair competition, whether there are one or 100 cases," Donato said.
Several Democratic state senators, who like in the House are outnumbered by Republicans by more than 3 to 1, offered their own counter-arguments advocating for the rights of transgender students.