INDIANAPOLIS — Republican leaders at the Statehouse are promising to override Gov. Eric Holcomb's veto of a bill banning transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams in school.
Holcomb turned down the bill Monday, saying it left too many questions unanswered and that there didn't seem to be a need for it. But some lawmakers seem to disagree.
"This legislation is legislation in search of a problem. Just like Gov. Holcomb said, there's no evidence to point to it being a problem that trans girls have any kind of competitive edge over their peers. They’re just little girls trying to play sports with their friends," said Katie Blair, ACLU of Indiana's director of advocacy and public policy.
Blair said the ACLU is ready to fight if lawmakers vote to override the veto, allowing a ban on transgender girls in school sports to take effect.
When it comes to the law, what would happen in the courts isn't clear cut.
"There's no precedent that governs this situation yet," said Steve Sanders, professor at IU's Maurer School of Law. "But the law has been evolving in a way that is generally solicitous to the interests of transgender youth, of transgender adults and kind of goes into the analysis with a certain degree of skepticism toward laws that disadvantage this group."
Sanders said because transgender people have been historically discriminated against, courts often look more carefully at laws that could further marginalize the community.
While the Supreme Court hasn't addressed transgender youth in sports, it has ruled transgender people cannot be discriminated against in their workplace based on sex, protecting them under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
If the courts see Indiana's ban as discrimination based on sex, that could halt the bill quickly.
Sanders said whether the measure holds up in court could come down to how it's challenged.
“A lot of it depends on the how the challengers, how broadly or narrowly the challengers to the law frame their arguments. Are they going for a victory for one or two particular students, particular plaintiffs? Or are they going for a larger victory of getting the law completely invalidated?" Sanders said.
In recent years and in other states, transgender athletes have sued and won, Sanders said, but those victories were narrowly tailored.
Blair said the ACLU is ready to take up this battle in the courts, but hopes instead lawmakers simply let this fight fade away.
"If lawmakers really wanted to support girls' sports, they'd be spending time putting money toward girls' sports, lifting that up instead of trying to put this kind of bogus, nonsensical, unconstitutional legislation into place," Blair said.