Indiana’s ‘cruel and harmful’ anti-trans sports bill sent to governor to be signed into law

Eric Holcomb, the governor of Indiana, wears a blue polo shirt with a gold logo over his left chest

Indiana lawmakers have sent a “regressive” bill banning trans girls from playing on sports teams matching their gender identity to the governor’s desk.

On Tuesday (1 March), the state’s Senate passed Republican-backed House Bill 1041 (HB 1041) with a 32-18 vote, largely along party lines. HB 1041 was approved by the Indiana House back in January with a 66-30 vote, and it is now on governor Eric Holcomb’s desk for approval.

The proposed legislation would require both public and non-public schools as well as certain athletic associations to prohibit trans girls and teens from participating in teams matching their gender identity during interscholastic athletic events.

If the Republican governor signs it into law, Indiana would join 10 other states across the US that have adopted trans sports bans. It would also become the second state this year to enact such a bill after South Dakota approved similar legislation in February.

Holcomb has previously signalled his support for the legislation but said he was waiting to see a finalised version of the bill before making an official decision. However, he explained how he “adamantly” believed school sports and teams should be determined by the sex listed on a student’s birth certificate, not by their gender identity.

“I agree, adamantly, that boys should be playing boys’ sports and girls should be playing girls’ sports, and mixed sports should be just that,” Holcomb said.

Cathryn Oakley, senior counsel and state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, denounced HB 1041 as “regressive and damaging legislation” that only “hurts transgender youth” as it fails to “address any actual problem” in Indiana.

She described the legislation as a “crass political ploy by lawmakers looking to satisfy national anti-LGBTQ forces” at the “expense of the wellbeing” of trans youth.

“Indiana’s HB 1041 is legislation that discriminates needlessly, harms a group of already vulnerable children, and serves no legitimate purpose,” Oakley added.

“If governor Holcomb signs this bill, he will be harming transgender youth by excluding them from the benefits of participation in school sports, including character-building lessons like teamwork, leadership, responsibility and discipline.”

The ACLU of Indiana tweeted the “cruel bill” will alienate trans girls as it “sends a message that they don’t deserve equal opportunities”.

The organisation added HB 1041 “flies in the face of the doctors, educators, athletes, therapists, women’s rights advocates and more who voiced their opposition” to the anti-trans bill.

“Trans kids have a right to live full lives, just like everyone else,” the ACLU of Indiana wrote. “This isn’t over. We won’t stop fighting for an Indiana where trans youth are loved and treated equally.”

Holcomb previously signalled that lawmakers will support the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) – the arbiter of interscholastic competition among high schools in Indiana – on how the legislation would be enacted.

The IHSAA already has a policy that governs the participation of trans athletes in affiliated schools, according to IndyStar.

The governing body requires that trans youth have proof that they have been living as their gender identity for at least a year.

It also requires trans women and girls to have “completed a minimum of one year of hormone treatment related to gender transition” or undergone a gender-affirming medical procedure before they compete on a high school team matching their gender identity.

IHSAA commissioner Paul Neidig told IndyStar that the organisation has had a policy on trans participation “for well in excess of 10 years”.

Neidig said there had been “two applications submitted” under the policy since he took over as commissioner in August 2020. He said one application was for a trans boy who wanted to run his high school’s male cross-country team while another application concerned a trans girl who wanted to play on an unspecified team.

Neidig said the trans boy submitted their information according to the policy and was eventually “granted the ability to run on the male cross-country team”.

However, the other application was never completed as the trans student-athlete “decided they were not going to go out for the team”.