Louisiana is officially the 18th state to prohibit transgender women and girls from competing on female sports teams at all public and some private elementary and secondary schools and colleges.
Last month, both chambers of the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed SB 44, called the “Fairness in Women’s Sports” Act.
Under Louisiana law, any bill that passes the Legislature becomes law if the governor does not take action with it. Governor Edwards announced he would not take action on the bill during a news conference Monday.
The governor said the bill “was going to become law whether or not [he] signed it or vetoed it,” citing the fact that it had the support of more than two-thirds of both chambers of the Legislature, enough for a legislative veto override.
In June 2021, Gov. Edwards vetoed a similar version of the legislation, calling it discriminatory.
“Discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” the governor said last year.
Now, Louisiana joins a growing list of states that have enacted such guidelines in recent years, including at least six in 2022.
At the news conference, Edwards affirmed that he is opposed to the legislation and claimed there “hasn’t been a single instance in Louisiana of a trans girl participating in sports.”
“Whether it’s intended or not, the effect is to tell — send a strong message to at least some of these young people that they shouldn’t be who they think they are, who they believe they are, who they know that they are,” he said. “And I find that very distressing. I do believe that we can be better than that.”
SB 44 will go into effect on August 1 and will apply to all public schools and some private schools that receive state funding. The schools will be required to “designate intercollegiate and interscholastic athletic teams according to the biological sex of the team members.”
The law defines “biological sex” as “a statement of a student’s biological sex on the student’s official birth certificate which is entered at or near the time of the student’s birth.”
It explicitly states that teams designated for females are “not open to participation” by anyone whose birth certificate said “male.”
Additionally, the law will shield schools, coaches, and other school employees from having any legal action taken against them for enforcing the legislation. It also allows women to take legal action if they believe they were “deprived of an athletic opportunity” because of a violation of the law.
State Senator Beth Mizell sponsored the bill. She said its purpose is to protect girls and women from having to compete against biological males, whom she says have inherent athletic advantages, according to the Louisiana Illuminator.
Other states have instituted similar legislation this year, including Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Last year, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia passed comparable legislation.