INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a controversial bill that would ban transgender girls from playing on K-12 girls' sports teams, saying that the bill "leaves too many questions unanswered" and puts schools at risk of being sued.
In a letter to House Speaker Todd Huston, Holcomb detailed his concerns about the bill and said that he vetoed it because, "for me, this current bill falls short."
If Holcomb would have signed the bill, Indiana would have joined at least 10 other GOP-led states in adopting such bans.
In his letter, Holcomb said in several of the states that passed similar bans, lawsuits have been filed or have threatened to be filed. He added that even before this bill was introduced, a lawsuit was filed in Indiana in federal court by a middle school student who wanted to play in the school sports team of their choice.
Holcomb also said the bill assumes there's an existing problem in K-12 sports that requires the state to intervene and implies that the girls' sports are currently unfair.
"After further review, I find no evidence to support either claim even if I support the overall goal," Holcomb said.
He applauded the Indiana High School Athletic Association's (IHSAA) decade-old policy that he said has done "an admirable job" maintaining fairness and consistency in all sports.
"Nowhere in the testimony on this legislation was a critique leveled against their model on how to govern this and other complex matters," Holcomb wrote.
In contrast to IHSAA's policy, Holcomb said the bill was unclear about how it would maintain consistency and fairness for parents and students in school districts across the state. It's a concern IHSAA raised during its testimony, and Holcomb said he shares their concerns.
"Student-athletes could be treated differently according to which school they attend and compete for," Holcomb wrote. "Frustration of students, parents and administrators will likely follow."
He continued by writing that this frustration would only increase the likelihood of litigation against schools.
Mike Schmuhl, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, released a statement on behalf of the party where he called the veto "encouraging." The statement read in part:
“The moment the Indiana High School Athletic Association admitted there was no unfair advantage occurring in women’s sports, it became clear House Bill 1041 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. Signing House Bill 1041 into law would have put the lives of our children in jeopardy. However, this unnecessary debate has set a tone with kids that being transgender means something is wrong with them. It must be said that nothing is wrong and being transgender is exactly how God created you and is exactly who you are born to be...”