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Louisiana is the latest state in the U.S. to enact a ban on transgender women in women's sports. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Louisiana is the latest state in the U.S. to enact a ban on transgender women in women's sports. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Louisiana joins growing list of states to ban transgender women from women’s sports

Democratic Gov. Edwards chose not to sign or veto the bill due to more than 2/3 of the legislature supporting the measure. It goes into law as a result.

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On Monday, June 6, Louisiana became the 18th state to ban transgender women and girls from participating on female school sports teams after the state’s Democratic governor chose not to veto or approve the bill.

Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a press conference on Monday that he would not sign the bill, but he would also not veto it. Both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature passed the bill in May, and Louisiana law dictates that if the governor doesn’t take action, the bill becomes law.

It appeared that Edwards viewed a veto as futile, since it had more than two-thirds majority support in both chambers, meaning that his veto could easily be overridden.

The bill, entitled the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, requires schools to “designate intercollegiate and interscholastic athletic teams according to the biological sex of the team members.”

The measure defines biological sex as the sex listed on an individual’s birth certificate. It also explicitly states that trans girls and women are excluded from playing on female sports teams.

The bill will go into effect on Aug. 1, and it will apply to public elementary, middle and high schools, as well as public universities. It will also apply to any private school or university that receives public funding.

The bill also allows citizens to act as vigilantes against those who disobey the new law. It gives students and others the ability to sue schools who allow trans girls and women to play on female sports teams, and legally protects the plaintiffs who report a school.

Edwards vetoed a similar bill last year and said that it was a “solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana."

On Monday, he reaffirmed his stance on the matter, adding that whether or not it's intentional, the legislation sends a strong message to young people that they shouldn’t explore their identity and self-expression. 

“I find that very distressing. I do believe that we can be better than that,” he said. 

Republican state Sen. Beth Mizell, co-sponsor of the bill, told the Louisiana Illuminator she supports it because she believes cisgender girls and women need to be protected from competing against trans women, whom she believes have an inherent athletic advantage. 

But NCAA swimming champion Lia Thomas, a trans woman from the University of Pennsylvania, doesn’t see it that way. 

In her first interview since competing, she told ABC News that the transitioning process actually made her lose muscle mass and it made her feel slower and weaker in the water. 

“Trans people don’t transition for athletics. We transition to be happy and authentic and our true selves. Transitioning to get an advantage is not something that ever factors into our decisions,” Thomas said. 

The science on transgender athletes is new and there’s not much research to back up claims from either side of the debate, but some medical experts do believe that the effects of higher testosterone during male puberty may never fully go away. 

But due to the use of puberty blockers, not all trans girls and women actually experience male puberty, so they may never have this potentially inherent advantage over cisgender athletes. 

Despite evidence of what happens to a trans person’s body after hormone therapy, Thomas said she still views herself in the context of her peers and teammates, all of whom vary in size, strength, and ability. 

"I'm not a medical expert, but there's a lot of variation among cis female athletes. There are cis women who are very tall and very muscular and have more testosterone than another cis woman, and should that then also disqualify them?,” Thomas said. 

LGBTQ advocates, professional and collegiate level advocates, and many national organizations have spoken out in support of transgender athletes being allowed to participate in teams that match their gender identity. 

“This bill will further isolate and marginalize transgender kids, but it will not help women’s sports. We call on the Louisiana House of Representatives to stop this bill from advancing any further,” the Human Rights Campaign wrote in a statement.

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