INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a Republican-backed bill that would ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity, sending it to the governor for his decision on whether it will become law.
The state Senate voted 32-18 largely along party lines in favor of the proposal that opponents argue is unconstitutional, sexist and bigoted. If Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signs the bill into law, Indiana would join at least 10 other GOP-led states in adopting such bans.
The proposal would prohibit K-12 students who were born male but who identify as female from participating in a sport or on an athletic team that is designated for women or girls. But it wouldn't prevent students who were born female or were born female but identify as male from playing on male sports teams.
Holcomb told reporters last week that he would wait to see the final version of the bill before making a decision. Holcomb said he "adamantly" agrees that "boys should be playing boys sports and girls should be playing girls sports, and mixed sports should be just that," referring to a person's sex at birth.
The governor also pointed to the Indiana High School Athletic Association, which already has a policy covering transgender students, saying it has had no transgender girls finalize a request to play on a girls' team.
Bill sponsor Sen. Stacey Donato, a Republican from Logansport, said the proposal was needed to protect the integrity of female sports- a sentiment that Rep. Michelle Davis agreed with.
"Female athletes deserve fair competition and an even playing field. This bill ensures just that, a fair and equal opportunity to compete for Hoosiers now and in the future," Davis said.
Opponents maintain that the bill wrongly targets already vulnerable transgender youth and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has said it planned a lawsuit against what it calls "hateful legislation" if it becomes law.
Katie Blair, the advocacy and public policy director with the ACLU of Indiana, issued a statement immediately after the bill was passed where she said the ACLU "won't stop fighting" on this issue.
“The Indiana legislature has voted to discriminate against trans youth, passing HB 1041, despite hearing hours of testimony from Hoosiers opposing this legislation and receiving tens of thousands of calls and emails. This bill singles out trans girls by banning them from participating in girls’ sports, jeopardizing their mental health, physical well-being and ability to access educational opportunities comparable to their peers.
“In Indiana, three in four trans youth will be harassed and bullied in school for being trans. By passing this bill, Indiana legislators have exposed trans kids to additional exclusion and mistreatment.
“Trans kids have a right to live full lives, just like everyone else. This legislation is hateful, harmful, and appears to violate federal law and the Constitution. Courts have blocked similar laws from going into effect in several other states. This isn’t over.
“We won’t stop fighting for an Indiana where trans youth are loved and treated equally.”
One high school student named Clair told 13News that she believes the bill is about more than sports.
"This bill is just another example of thinly veiled bigotry that is disguised by protecting women," said Clair. "It's a great overstep to say that every transgender girl is going to have some magical athletic ability. They are just as capable to be just as bad as I am. I am not concerned or overwhelmed."
And others say the proposal is another example of lawmakers making an issue out of a nonissue.
"Every year, these bills are justified by the same doomsday predictions, telling people we are going to invade, whether it's your bathrooms, locker rooms or sports team. There is no place in Indiana where trans girls have taken over sports teams," said Kit Malone, an advocate with the ACLU of Indiana.