As Indiana Republican lawmakers prepare to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto and enact a new law that would bar transgender girls from participating in girls’ K-12 sports, activist groups on both sides of the issue are ramping up their lobbying efforts.
The issue is expected to come to a head Tuesday when the Republican-dominated Legislature reconvenes for a “technical corrections” day.
GOP leaders in the House and Senate already have pledged to hold a vote to override the rejection of House Bill 1041 by Holcomb, a fellow Republican. Still, some groups are trying to dissuade them, despite the long odds of steering Indiana away from joining more than a dozen conservative states that have passed laws imposing similar restrictions on transgender student athletes.
Katie Blair, director of advocacy and public policy at the ACLU of Indiana, said she recognizes it is a “steep hill to climb” to persuade GOP lawmakers to uphold Holcomb’s veto of the bill, which would prohibit K-12 students who were born male but identify as female from participating in a sport or on an athletic team designated for women or girls.
Still, the ACLU, along with Indiana Youth Group, GenderNexus and Indy Pride, have been holding letter-writing parties to send messages to lawmakers and voice their ongoing opposition to the bill.
The group is also encouraging people to reach out to lawmakers individually by phone and email.
“We’ve seen that across the board at our Indianapolis letter writing party, we had parents, trans folks and people that work in that community … that just kind of saw this opportunity and want to speak out against this hateful legislation,” Blair said.
They have been getting what she called a “mixed bag” of responses from lawmakers, who likely will not budge on their vote, she said. Some were empathetic, some were angered by the entreaties, and some said their hands were tied, Blair said.
As the Legislature convenes on Tuesday, the ACLU will host a “Statehouse Day to Let Kids Play,” with sporting events for kids on the Statehouse south lawn in the morning and a rally inside during the afternoon when lawmakers are expected to consider the override.
Meanwhile, the Indiana Family Institute has been lobbying lawmakers to support the override.
The group has been advocating for the bill via social media and email campaigns and meeting with lawmakers, Executive Director Ryan McCann said. The Family Institute supports the legislation because it believes it protects fairness in women’s sports.
McCann is confident the vote to override will be successful because the measure had overwhelming support in both chambers when it passed initially.
The legislation initially sailed through on largely party-line votes, passing 66-30 in the House and 32-18 in the Senate. A simple majority in both chambers is all that is needed to override the veto, and Republicans hold supermajorities in the House and Senate.
National groups weigh in
National groups are also weighing in on the veto override.
The American Principles Project, a Virginia-based conservative group that regularly runs campaigns promoting legislation like HB 1041 in other states, is advocating for the Indiana bill.
The organization has spent millions in other states running campaigns promoting transgender athlete bans. In Michigan, which is a swing state, American Principles Project ran a $4 million digital ad campaign in 2020 promoting such legislation.
It has not gone to those lengths in Indiana, Executive Director Terry Schilling said, but the group spent $10,000 on a poll in Indiana asking respondents if they supported “legislation that banned biologically male students that identify as transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports programs at Indiana K-12 public schools.”
The study was conducted online by SPRY Strategies, with a sample size of 1,012 “likely 2022 voters” and a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
The survey found 64.5% of respondents said they supported such legislation.
“The reason we did [the poll] was to figure out, you know, was Gov. Holcomb out of line, or would state legislators be siding with the people of their state?” Schilling said.
The Human Rights Campaign, a national left-leaning advocacy group, has been actively campaigning against transgender athlete bans. It has run ads in Indiana asking lawmakers to vote against HB 1041, and it has been actively posting online against a veto override.
“It’s a problem that doesn’t exist, and again, it’s using a political wedge issue to target vulnerable children, which is shameful,” said John Gruber, the group’s deputy national campaign director.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association commended Holcomb’s veto of the bill after declining to take an explicit stance earlier.
IHSAA Commissioner Paul Neidig expressed reservations that the proposed legislation only addressed “a single gender and the grievance procedure.”
He added that the IHSAA’s long-standing gender policy already provides “the flexibility to assess competitive advantage in each unique case,” although the association has not had any transgender girls finalize a request to play on a girls team.
The proposed ban doesn’t apply to college or professional sports, and other Indiana-based sports organizations such as the NCAA have remained publicly silent on the legislation.
A veto surprise
HB 1041’s author, Rep. Michelle Davis, the Whiteland Republican who authored House Bill 1041, said she was surprised by Holcomb’s veto.
She said she received a call from the Governor’s Office the night before, informing her the governor would veto the bill the next day.
Up until then, she said, she had never talked to the governor’s staff about the issue or knew he opposed the legislation. After the call, she immediately informed House Speaker Todd Huston, who told her he was as surprised as she was.
“He said, ‘Michelle, we will override it, as long as we continue to have the support,’” Davis said. “From that night, that has been the plan, as long as we continue to have support, which we do.”
For Sen. J.D. Ford, D-Indianapolis, who has been one of the strongest opponents to the legislation in the Statehouse, Holcomb’s veto was a welcome surprise.
He is disappointed the Legislature is poised to override the veto, saying lawmakers are just going to go back and forth again on the issue.
“We’re going to have to rehash everything that we already talked about while we were in [session]. And meanwhile, you know, there are folks out there that are just watching this back and forth like a tennis match,” Ford said.
Holcomb was not the only Republican governor to veto such legislation. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox also vetoed a bill in March that would bar transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports, but lawmakers quickly overrode the veto.
Holcomb argued in his veto message in March that the legislation fell short of protecting fairness in women’s sports and that he had not found any evidence of the problem the legislation intended to address in Indiana.
The governor doubled down on his reasoning in April when he told a group of reporters the legislation was trying to address “something that wasn’t a problem” and added that he wanted to spend his time on existing issues.
“I’m going to focus my time on issues that are going to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” Holcomb said.
Republican lawmakers reacted quickly to the governor’s veto. The day after, Huston announced the House would take action to overturn Holcomb’s veto when lawmakers returned to the Statehouse for technical corrections day.
“This issue continues to be in the national spotlight and for good reason as women have worked hard for equal opportunities on the playing field—and that’s exactly what they deserve,” Huston said in a written statement at the time.
The Senate will vote to overturn the veto once the House does, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, told IBJ in a statement last week.
“The crux of HEA 1041 is about preserving fairness in sports for biological females. HEA 1041 passed the Senate by a comfortable margin, and I expect to see a similar vote count if and when it comes over from the House on May 24,” Bray said in a written statement.
Davis said she disagreed with Holcomb’s characterization that her bill does not address a current problem in Indiana.
While the bill would not apply to college sports, some conservatives point to the case of transgender collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas as a key reason to have legislation that protects the integrity of girls’ and women’s sports.
Thomas became the first openly trans athlete to win a Division I championship in any sport. She was on the men’s team her first three years but competed for the women at the University of Pennsylvania this season after transitioning.
“It’s in the national spotlight and continues to be there,” Davis said. “I believe and will continue to believe it’s the right legislation to pass.”•
18 thoughts on “Legislature poised to enact transgender athlete ban”
Not allowing men to compete in women’s sports seems like common sense to me… not that complicated
Excellent. Let’s hope the bill passes and overrides “chicken” Holcomb’s capitulating to the noisy, confused minority that has too much of his attention….and validates his “RINO” credentials.
The odds that your kid or grandkid is going to get a college scholarship for sports, or go on to a pro career, are incredibly low. And the odds that a transgender athlete is going to beat out your kid or grandkid for that opportunity are infinitely lower. It’s not like there are tens of thousands of kids just waiting to change genders so they can go one up on the opposite sex in sports. I just don’t understand the undeserved hype and hysteria about this issue. Seems like we have bigger problems to solve.
I agree with your last sentence about bigger problems. If a male under the age of 18 thinks he is a female, he has far bigger problems than making the girls swim team. As for hype and hysteria, as always it is coming from Democrats. It’s mind numbing that we need a law stating the sky is blue, but when Democrats are screeching and suing to say the sky is orange, this is what we get.
A reminder, Chuck, the folks who say the sky is falling and we must do SOMETHING RIGHT NOW TO SAVE THE CHILDREN on this issue are Republicans.
The IHSAA has solved this issue. The one transgendered boy who tried to play girls sports dropped out before they even finished applying. This is all a matter of public record. That’s how effective the IHSAA policy is.
All Republicans can do is point to examples in other states or at the college level (which this bill exempts) as their excuse for action.
Republicans are so wrong on this issue they’re making the IHSAA look good. Think about THAT for a moment.
Daniel R, you miss the whole point of school sports. Few youngsters expect scholarships or pro careers for their sports achievements, but why should they be denied a level biological playing field to compete with others of their gender for school records? If you think we have bigger problems to solve, you haven’t seen anything until the confused people backing this gender-neutral nonsense get their way in years to come. It’s one of many slippery slopes on which our culture seems hell-bent on sliding down into oblivion.
They aren’t being denied a level playing field Bob and you know it. You’re spreading lies and that’s the nicest way I can put it.
OH? What lies would they be, Oh Great Wise One, Joe?
You know that no one is being denied an equal playing field.
You know that the IHSAA policy requires any transgendered athlete to have the same bone density and muscle mass as the people they’re competing against.
You also know that hormone treatments don’t reduce bone density and muscle mass.
You also know that the only person who started the process in Indiana stopped before they even finished applying. Want to bet they got to the fine print or medical results and they realized they had no chance? This would be the case for the super vast majority of people who tried to play sports.
My child plays an IHSAA sport in which a biological male would dominate. I’ve never once worried about a transgendered kid playing that sport due to the IHSAA policy. The IHSAA policy is fair to all and logical. The Indiana legislature is foolish to wade in.
The bill is unnecessary – the Indiana High School Athletic Association already has policies and procedures in place to address this. This bill is just political grandstanding.
Things I don’t understand. OK if this is about something that doesn’t exist. Why are people spending so much time opposing it? Just move on, laugh at how silly the other side is for spending time and resources on this topic. But instead, it is taking up a lot of time from the libs, the press and others. (Including the governor who didn’t want to spend time on it.) So, all this tells me the bill is as we said in the military, “Over The Target”.
Holcomb veto on this issue falls right in line with the globalist narrative. Unfortunately Eric will not be around for this over ride vote. He will be to busy rubbing shoulders with the Klaus Schwab’s, George Soro’s and John Kerry’s of the world for continuation of there health care tyranny. On the agenda is how to put all health care issues in the hands of the United Nation’s and the World Economic Funds to completely circumvention the 10th amendment to the US Constitution.
But you knew Holcomb was a lousy leader that can not make a decision that is positive for Indiana. Our legislators need to but a bit in his mouth and bridle this beast before he sells us out to the global elitist.
Boys will be boys
Anyways title IX lolz
I was a republican once. There was a time when the republican party stood for reason over emotion, and the protections of personal freedoms over government intervention. Between this and Sen. Ruckleshouse’s anti eye tattoo bill, I’m not sure which one is more ridiculous. I wish the legislature would spend their time trying to improve our states education system, roads, and infrastructure. Oh, or maybe they should look into the services provided for disadvantaged children in our fair state. God knows that problem is likely to get a lot worse. In the meantime we cannot even compete for new facilities being built by our own native corporations. I was a republican once.
No 1 cares that you were a RINO
Why the hysteria and spread of fear? Can we not spend our time and money repairing roads, please?
Because it’s easier to get re-elected fixing a problem that never existed than fixing the roads. That would require real leadership.
My 3 daughters all played high school sports against other young women. They enjoyed a great deal of success and have many joyful memories. If they had been forced to compete against biological males that would not have been the case.