Override or Die: States Protect Girls’ Sports from Male Athletes and Weak Governors
Republican-dominated state legislatures have sent a clear message to weak or doddering governors: If you don’t protect girls from unfair male competition in athletics, we will. Lawmakers overrode Republican governors in Indiana and Utah who vetoed legislation barring males who identify as females from competing against women and girls in sports — and they appear poised to do it again against a Democrat.
State lawmakers in Indiana voted decisively to override Governor Eric Holcomb’s (R) veto of H.B. 1041, which would require men to compete in sports based on their “biological sex at birth.” Holcomb had unexpectedly nixed the bill on March 21 after publicly announcing his support. On Tuesday, the state legislature voted to make the proposal a law without his signature, overriding his veto by a 32-15 vote in the state Senate and 67-28 in the state House of Representatives. (It’s worth noting that four Republican state senators in Indiana — Ronnie Alting, Phil L. Boots, Ed Charbonneau, and Greg Walker — voted against enacting the bill to protect women’s sports, while Democratic State Rep. Chuck Moseley joined all the chamber’s Republicans in the override vote.)
Holcomb now suffers the same ignominy as another weak Republican governor, Utah’s Spencer Cox. He vetoed similar legislation one day after Holcomb, on March 22. Cox accused the bill’s sponsors of acting out of “fear and anger” and implied the proposal somehow contributed to transgender teens’ rate of “suicidality.” Utah Republicans overrode Cox’s veto just three days later.
These governors’ actions couldn’t contrast more with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, who “proudly“ signed the Save Women’s Sports act last Tuesday. “It’s common sense — boys should play boys’ sports and girls should play girls’ sports,” he said. He noted the bill “is now the law of the land in South Carolina,” despite Democrats’ attempts to derail the bill by offering nearly 1,000 amendments.
Attention now focuses on Louisiana, where Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, must decide whether to sign the recently passed Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. Edwards vetoed a similar bill last year, and lawmakers fell one vote short of enacting the law over his objections. The current version removes the bill’s ban on intramural sports (sports which take place within a university or institution, as compared with competitions between schools). Edwards has not yet said whether he will veto this year’s amended bill — but lawmakers say it doesn’t matter: This year, they can override his veto.
“We feel really good that if the governor does veto it, we have the votes in place now to get through the override,” said Louisiana State Senator Beth Mizell (R) during Tuesday’s “Washington Watch.” Mizell, who sponsored the legislation, noted that a recent survey found that 80% of those polled agree with the bill. “You can’t ignore how the majority of Louisianans feel about it,” she said. “I’m hoping [Gov. Edwards will] take that into consideration, as well.”
It’s not clear how Republican governors like Cox, Holcomb, and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem benefit from vetoing such popular legislation, which corporate lobbyists strongly oppose. But it’s clear who benefits most from their vetoes: mediocre male athletes. At a swim meet last December, male swimmer Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania beat the second-place finisher, a biological female, by 38 seconds. Two months later, Thomas broke six records at the Ivy League Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships. But Thomas had ranked 554 in the nation as a male swimmer the previous year.
The same held true in Connecticut, where two male teens who identified as females dominated girls track and field events. Terry Miller set records in 2018, and both Miller and Andraya Yearwood came in first and second in the state — and in the top 10 nationally — in the girls’ 55-meter dash in 2019. But they would have ranked 120 and 195 in the same event against male peers.
To prevent these kinds of adverse outcomes — or, more accurately, inequities — for females, 17 states have enacted women’s sports protection bills, and dozens more are considering such legislation. And these bills represent the will of the majority.
A poll taken earlier this month found that more than two-thirds of battleground-state voters agree it is unfair for “biological men who now identify as women” to compete against females on the court, track, or swimming pool. A majority of all racial, sexes, and age — and a plurality of Democrats — agreed. Less than one in five Americans (19%) believe men should be able to compete with women and girls. (A Gallup poll last year found similar results, except among Democrats.)
Interestingly, the latest poll shows that support for state laws rise when placed alongside the opposing viewpoint that “trans women are women, and that not allowing them to compete with the gender they identify with is unfair discrimination.” The more Americans are exposed to the other argument, the more likely they become to affirm common sense and biological reality expressed in the first chapter of the Bible, “male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). If only all Republican governors had the courage to affirm these words, and act on them.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.