FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Democratic governor of Kentucky on Wednesday vetoed a bill banning transgender girls and women from participating in school sports that match their gender identity from sixth grade through college.
In his veto message, Gov. Andy Beshear said the Republican-backed measure “very likely” violates the equal protection rights of the U.S. Constitution because it “discriminates against transgender children who seek to participate in women’s or women’s sports”.
The state’s GOP-dominated legislature will have a chance to override the veto when lawmakers reconvene April 13 for the final two days of this year’s session. The transgender bill has sparked emotional debate at times, but cleared both houses with support from large majorities.
Republican-led states have increasingly enacted such bans for transgender girls or women, though culture war bans have been challenged in several states as violations of federal law. Beshear noted that similar measures had drawn vetoes from Republican governors.
Under the Kentucky bill, a student’s sex would be determined by the “biological sex” listed on the student’s original birth certificate issued at the time of birth.
Republican Senator Robby Mills, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the measure would allow girls and women to compete with other “biological women”.
Vetoing the measure, Beshear said his supporters had not presented a “unique example” in Kentucky of someone gaining a competitive advantage as a result of a “gender reassignment.”
“Transgender children deserve the efforts of public servants to demonstrate that they are valued members of our communities through compassion, kindness and empathy, even if they are not understanding,” the governor wrote.
Mills said the bill reflects the concerns of Bluegrass parents across the state. He said he “plans” to avoid situations where girls or women are unfairly competing with biological men.
“It would be overwhelming for a young woman to train her entire career only to end up competing against a biological male in the state tournament or the state finals,” Mills said during a debate on the law Project.
The governor’s veto was hailed by the Fairness Campaign, a Kentucky-based LGBTQ advocacy organization. The group’s executive director, Chris Hartman, called it “harmful legislation that would deprive transgender girls and young women of the opportunity to grow and learn as part of a team, simply because of who they are. “.
“From the beginning, this bill has been more about fear than fairness,” Hartman added.
David Walls, executive director of The Family Foundation, which supports the measure, said the governor sided with “his woke political base” to veto the bill.
“Biology is important, especially in sports, and we look forward to the General Assembly overriding Beshear’s tone-deaf veto so that women’s sports in Kentucky can be protected,” Walls said.
During a committee hearing, lawmakers heard testimony from a young transgender girl about the importance of playing for college field hockey in her life. Fischer Wells talked about the friends she has made and the fun she has had being part of the team.
“It’s disgusting that this bill is even being proposed,” she said. “It’s terrible. And I worked very hard and practiced so many hours.
The Kentucky legislation is Senate Bill 83.