Katie Blair: Veto is legally, scientifically, morally right decision

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Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a bill that banned transgender athletes from playing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity. Should the Legislature overturn the veto?

Excluding transgender girls from school sports is the latest attempt by state legislators to prevent trans people from living full and equal public lives. After manufacturing hysteria over restrooms and locker rooms, opponents of LGBTQ+ equality have shifted strategy to excluding trans youth from activities that affirm their sense of self, including athletics.

House Bill 1041 singles out trans girls, banning them from participating in girls’ sports, ultimately jeopardizing their mental health, physical well-being and ability to access educational opportunities comparable to their peers.

Gov. Eric Holcomb got it right in his veto statement: There is “no evidence” of an existing problem regarding fairness in girls’ sports. But, regardless of the facts, some Indiana legislators continue to attack trans kids to gain political points.

The science

Trans girls are girls and their participation in the girls’ category does not change the nature of the category. That’s why women’s rights advocates such as the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports, and others, support trans-inclusive sports policies. Excluding girls who are trans hurts all girls. It invites gender policing that could subject any girl to invasive accusations of being “too masculine” or “too good” at their sport to be a “real” girl.

When one trans girl succeeds, her success is often highly publicized and politicized to the point of suggesting that the only reason for her success is the fact that she is trans, and that all trans women and girls are inherently better athletes. Neither is true. The occasional success of a trans woman in sport should not be used to exclude all trans athletes.

Medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have decried blanket bans as unnecessary and unscientific.

The legality

When misinformation about biology and gender is used to bar transgender girls from sports, it amounts to the same form of sex discrimination that has long been prohibited under Title IX, a law that protects all students—including trans people—on the basis of sex.

As Holcomb mentioned in his veto statement, courts have already blocked similar laws in other states. The ACLU of Indiana remains prepared to take legal action to defend trans girls’ rights if legislators override the veto.

Trans youth have the right to participate in sports consistent with who they are. Denying them that right is blatant discrimination.

The morality

Trans students want to play sports for the same reasons other young people do: to challenge themselves, improve fitness, be part of a team, have fun and make friends. HB 1041 deprives vulnerable kids of the opportunities available to their peers.

Eight-five percent of transgender and non-binary youth report that constant political attacks on them have had a negative impact on their mental health, according to recent Trevor Project data. Yet Indiana lawmakers continue to introduce legislation that sends a message to vulnerable transgender youth that they are not accepted in their communities.

Trans kids deserve to have the opportunity to be kids without government interference. Let kids play.•


Blair is the advocacy and public policy director at ACLU of Indiana. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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3 thoughts on “Katie Blair: Veto is legally, scientifically, morally right decision

  1. Thank you Katie Blair. Sports should be an activity that helps students learn and grow mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially. Kids learn how to and the importance of working with others in a group endeavor. They learn rewards of good health and adequate training, warm up, and practice as well as the consequences of failing to abide by the rules and good sportsmanship. These and many other life lessons are much more important than winning at all costs. I fear too many politicians have lost sight of why we even have sports in schools.

    Worse yet, some politicians seem to think demonizing some kids is an acceptable way to earn political points. For already vulnerable students, this legislation is a political form of ‘piling on’.
    This sad, ugly piece of legislation accomplishes nothing but hurt and perhaps even death for those already struggling with their identity.

    This Holy Week, I’m reminded that Jesus taught us to put ourselves in the shoes of others and treat them as we’d wish to be treated in the same circumsances. Hopefully a majority of legislators will follow that example and uphold the Governor’s veto of this hurtful legislation.

  2. What a bunch of insanity. People with mental illness need help but pretending that normalizing this madness does a disservice to the very people who need help. Funny how the left favors “science” when it serves their purposes, but when it does not, they abandon it or find someone who poses as an expert to offer a different opinion. They are in denial of the truth and real science. And the kids are the ones who end up being hurt.

  3. Why can’t the biological boys merely play sports with other biological boys? If it’s unacceptable for a boy to be denied the right to play girls’ sports, then why not do away with boy/girl sports and make them all co-ed?