Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a bill Monday to bar male-born athletes from K-12 female sports, saying the bill would foster confusion and litigation in a state with no recorded cases of transgender athletes trying to join girls’ teams.
The Republican governor said in his veto message that House Bill 1041 presumes “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,” Mr. Holcomb said. “After a thorough review, I find no evidence to support either claim even if I support the overall goal.”
The legislation could still become law if the Republican-controlled House and Senate override the governor’s veto after returning to the statehouse May 24 for the veto session. An override requires a simple majority in both chambers.
Rep. Jim Banks, Indiana Republican, said he was “disappointed with Gov. Holcomb’s veto of a common sense bill that frankly doesn’t go far enough to Save Women’s Sports.”
“My hope is that the Indiana General Assembly will meet soon to override the veto and send a message to the rest of the nation that Indiana values women,” Mr. Banks tweeted.
Cheering the governor’s veto was Indiana Democratic Party Chair Mike Schmuhl, who said the bill was “more about fulfilling a made-up culture war than actually creating a better future for Hoosier children.”
“It’s encouraging to see Governor Eric Holcomb tell his party that their culture wars have crossed the line,” said Mr. Schmuhl, who served as campaign manager for Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 Democratic presidential primary run. “Signing House Bill 1041 into law would have put the lives of our children in jeopardy.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading LGBTQ group, also applauded the veto.
“When we fight for our rights and make our voices heard, we win. It’s now up to Indiana lawmakers to uphold the veto,” HRC tweeted.
Eleven states have passed legislation barring male-born athletes from K-12 or collegiate female sports, or both. The measures in Idaho and West Virginia have been temporarily blocked pending court challenges.
Meridian Baldacci, Family Policy Alliance spokesperson, called the veto “tragic” and urged the Indiana General Assembly to “override this misguided and concerning veto from the governor of one of the most conservative states in the nation.”
“Today, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb failed female athletes across the Hoosier state,” she said. “Just days after the NCAA forced a female swimmer to take second place to a male, Governor Holcomb abandoned young Hoosier girls to the same fate in their own sports leagues.”
Mr. Holcomb is not the first Republican governor to veto such legislation.
Last year, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum nixed a similar bill, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem refused to sign one, although Ms. Noem replaced the legislation with an executive order and then signed a Fairness in Women’s Sports bill in February.
Mr. Holcomb also expressed confidence in the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s ability to “maintain fairness and consistency in all sports.”
He said a lawsuit has already been filed in federal court on behalf of an Indiana middle-school student who wants to “play in school sports on the team of their choice.”
The Indiana bill was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Michelle Davis, a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
“As a former college athlete, I believe girls deserve to compete and win on a level playing field,” she said in an earlier statement. “This legislation is focused on protecting fair competition and athletic opportunities in girls’ sports in Indiana.”
Several other states are considering similar bills this year, including Alaska, Arizona, Missouri and South Carolina.