Governor Edwards vetoed legislation that would have blocked transgender athletes from participating in girl’s and women’s sports teams in Louisiana K-12 and post-secondary schools. The veto came months after Edwards initially vowed to reject the legislation before it was even taken up in committee.

In his veto statement, Edwards said “discrimination is not a Louisiana value” and previously the Governor had voiced concern about the mental health impact the bill would have on trans youth.

“First and foremost I am really concerned about emotionally fragile people and the idea that the weight of the state would be put behind something that to me is unnecessary and discriminatory and very hurtful for those individuals when there is not a compelling reason to do it,” said Edwards, who also sounded the alarm about the financial ramifications of sighing this bill into law. “We know that there will be an adverse impact to the state in respect to the NCAA and other things.”

The decision pushes back against legislation that has passed several Southern states.

Bill Author Fires Back at Governor Edwards

Supporters argued the legislation was an effort to protect the competitive sanctity of women’s sports. Bill author and Franklinton Senator Beth Mizell took issue with Edwards’ accusation that the bill is discriminatory.

“When did it become discriminatory to protect the rights of women who worked so hard to get what we have accomplished in the competition level of sport?” asked Mizell. “We need to protect women’s sports as we come to know it so that there can be competition between biological women, I don’t see that as discriminatory.”

senate.la.gov

Edwards and other opponents of the bill pointed out that there are no transgender women or girl athletes currently participating in girls’ and women’s sports in Louisiana schools and current LHSAA regulations largely preclude that from happening at the K-12 level. Mizell said just because that is not the case now does not mean it won’t happen in the future.

“You can look at the news every day and it may not be happening in Louisiana but it is happening in other parts of the country and the world and there has got to be an acknowledgment that women’s competition needs to be protected,” said

The bill cleared both chambers of the Legislature with over two-thirds support. Mizell indicated that the chances of a veto session being called are dependent on what other pieces of legislation are also vetoed.

Could the Louisiana Legislature be Heading Towards a Veto Session?

Per the Associated Press, the Legislature has not held a veto override session since the current state constitution was adopted in the 1970s.

Louisiana’s constitution automatically sets a veto session when a governor jettisons legislation. However, it only takes a majority written vote of lawmakers in either the House or Senate to stop the session. Political consultant Lionel Rainey says House Speaker Clay Schexnayder supports a four-day veto session.

house.louisiana.gov

“When you have the Speaker of the House come out and immediately make a statement that he’s in favor of a veto override that’s a big, big, big sign,” said Rainey.

State lawmakers will receive mail ballots during the first week of July asking whether they want a veto session. Rainey says if one chamber votes against it, the veto session is canceled.

“My personal opinion is that I think the numbers are going to be there in the House to bring them back in," said Rainey. "The Senate, I don’t know, that’s going to be a tough call."

GOP Senate President Page Cortez hasn’t taken a public position, which could put the chances in doubt.

Photo courtesy of the Louisiana Senate

In Edwards’s veto announcement, he said a ban on transgender athletes in girls’ sports is discrimination and the bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. But, Rainey says there’s strong public support for this legislation.

“In our business, we track this and I don’t know if there’s anything else out there that has the amount of overwhelming support of the public across both parties,” said Rainey.

Governor Edwards is also expected to veto another bill that received strong support in the Legislature. That legislation would do away with the need of a concealed carry permit in order to carry a concealed handgun.

(Story written by Matt Doyle and Taylor Sharp/Louisiana Radio Network & Melinda Deslatte/AP)

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