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Reports on Louisiana politics, government and the people shaping state policy

Louisiana lawmakers pass transgender sports ban again. What are the odds of a veto this time?

Trans Pride flags
Ted Eytan
Trans Pride flags

For the second year in a row, Louisiana lawmakers have passed legislation that would ban transgender girls from competing in school sports. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who vetoed nearly identical legislation last year.

LGBTQ groups swiftly denounced the bill and called on Edwards to veto the legislation once again.

Peyton Rose Michelle of Louisiana Trans Advocates said participating in school sports is an important part of a child's development and an opportunity that should be available to all Louisianans.

“Politicians should be ashamed of using children who simply want to play sports as political pawns,” Michelle said. “Governor Edwards must listen to the majority of Louisianans who support equal rights for transgender and LGBTQ+ people and use his power to veto this hateful bill.”

“With the stroke of a pen, our governor has the chance to be a champion for young people again, and we press upon him again to do what is right,” said SarahJane Guidry, executive director of Forum for Equality.

Capitol Access reporter Paul Braun spoke with WRKF Host Karen Henderson about the bill and the prospects of a veto override. Parts of their conversation that were edited from the radio version are included in the transcript below.

Karen Henderson: Paul, walk us through this bill and tell us about the latest vote. 

Paul Braun: This is Sen. Beth Mizell’s so-called “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” It would explicitly ban transgender athletes who were assigned male at birth from women’s intercollegiate and K-12 interscholastic competitions in Louisiana.

Mizell and her co-sponsors say the bill is needed to protect the integrity of women’s sports, but there are some problems with that argument.

The Louisiana High School Athletics Association already has rules that function as a de facto ban on transgender student-athletes. They require that athletes compete as the gender they were assigned at birth unless they undergo gender reassignment surgery — a procedure that is not performed on minors. And the bill’s sponsors will readily acknowledge that no known transgender athletes currently compete in Louisiana or have ever competed in Louisiana.

The NCAA is more permissive than the LHSAA in allowing athletes to compete in the division that matches their gender identity. This bill would contradict that. Taking this legislation out of the realm of pure symbolism raises all kinds of questions about how people would check and enforce this rule.

So, lawmakers already signed off on this legislation in concept last year and in two prior floor votes this year.

The bill won final passage Monday after the Senate approved minor amendments made in the House.

And the vote was met with very little fanfare because lawmakers know the real test will be whether Edwards chooses to veto the ban again and if the GOP can win over enough support across the aisle to successfully override him this time.

KH: And what is Edwards’ position on the bill?

PB: It hasn’t changed much from last year. He still says he thinks it is unnecessary and mean-spirited. He talked about the legislation last week with Jim Engster on Ask the Governor and said with no real problem to correct, this bill is just another way to bully trans kids.

Edwards noted that the bill was amended in the House so that the ban would NOT apply to intramural sports. He called those changes “significant,” which could be an attempt to give himself a little wiggle room and potentially reverse his position.

Even if Edwards doesn’t change his position, his characterization of changes may signal to Democrats on the fence that there may be the political cover for them to reverse their position.

KH: What is the likelihood of a veto override? 

PB: I think an override attempt is pretty much guaranteed. Immediately after the failed override vote last July, legislative leaders said they planned to bring the bill again and keep fighting this fight.

How might that vote turn out? Well, that’s a little trickier.

This year’s bill passed through the Senate, the House and then the Senate again, each time with veto-proof, two-thirds majorities. But that was the case last year when the original version of the bill made its first trip through the legislature. And we all saw that Edwards was able to convince every Democrat, minus one, to vote to sustain his veto.

A lot has changed since then. Given the heated debate over this issue that’s happened in the legislature and around the country in the last year, I think folks’ positions on this bill have solidified. The Democrats that voted for the anti-trans legislation this go around didn’t do so lightly, which makes an override vote seem a lot more feasible.

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.