Pennsylvania governor doubles down on promise to veto ban on trans athletes in women’s sports

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf doubled down on his promise to veto a “discriminatory” bill that would ban trans athletes in women’s sports if it lands on his desk.

Republican state lawmakers have introduced House Bill 972, which like a host of other anti-trans bills across the US, seeks to bar trans athletes from competing in girls and women’s school sports teams. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported one of the bill’s sponsors, Republican representative Barb Gleim, said the proposed legislation would protect gender equality in sports – a tired argument many conservatives use to push anti-trans measures.

Wolf simply said on his Twitter Monday (26 April): “I’ll veto this discriminatory bill if it gets to my desk.”

In a press conference at the state capitol on 5 April, Gleim said the bill, which is also known as the “Protect Women’s Sports Act”, was prompted by the LGBT-orientated executive order issued by president Joe Biden.

Biden has vowed to reinstate Obama-era guidance which extended Title IX to protect trans people across public school districts, which was repealed by Donald Trump in 2017. The federal law prohibits discrimination in schools based on gender.

But Gleim actually claimed Biden’s order violated Title IX, and her bill would “protect” women and girls in sports, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. She said: “There’s never a bad time to protect the opportunity for girls and women who deserve to compete on a level playing field.”

This is the second time that Wolf has vowed to veto the anti-trans legislation. The Democrat wrote in a Facebook post on 6 April that he would veto the bill “if it reaches my desk”. Wolf also wrote a note specifically to the trans youth being targeted by the legislation.

“To Pennsylvania’s trans youth: You belong. You are valued,” Wolf wrote. “Participate in the school activities that make you happiest. I’ll be cheering you on.”

Naiymah Sanchez, the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s transgender justice coordinator, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that introducing anti-trans legislation during COVID-19 “speaks volumes” about the “priorities” of lawmakers.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic that has put a significant strain on the mental health of young people,” Sanchez said. “Introducing a bill that would bar trans athletes from participating in sports is simply cruel and speaks volumes about the priorities of these lawmakers who are creating a problem that simply doesn’t exist.”