Indiana becomes 17th state to ban trans athletes as Texas resumes attacks on parents of trans kids

An activist holds a placard with the words 'Protect Trans Youth'

Republican lawmakers in Indiana have overridden the GOP governor’s veto of a bill banning trans students from competing in girls’ and women’s school sports. 

Governor Eric Holcomb vetoed the measure in March and said that he found “no evidence” that it would fix an existing issue in the state. He also declared that the wording of the bill as it stood “falls short” of providing a consistent statewide policy of what he described as “fairness in K-12 sports”. 

Indiana’s House of Representatives overrode Holcomb’s veto of HB 1041 by a vote of 67-28 on Tuesday (24 May). The state’s Senate voted 32-15 just a short while later.

Indiana House Democratic leader Phil GiaQuinta slammed fellow lawmakers for passing legislation “directly targeting a few vulnerable students” to “distract from Republicans’ inability to meet the moment and form a cogent agenda”. 

“It’s a pattern seen in state legislatures around the country,” GiaQuinta said. “When the GOP doesn’t have answers to folks’ toughest questions, they resort to legislative measures meant to distract and divide.”

A person wearing a rainbow face mask holds a sign that in the colour of the trans flag while a sign reading 'trans people are under attack' is seen in the background

LGBTQ+ advocates and allies protested against the Indiana legislature passing a bill that would ban trans athletes from playing school sports in the state. (YouTube/WTHR)

The law will now go into effect on 1 July – and LGBTQ+ advocates have already filed legal action against the anti-trans measure. 

The ACLU of Indiana announced Tuesday that it filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of AM, a 10-year-old trans girl, as she would be barred from playing on her school’s all-girls softball team as a result of the trans sports ban.

The complaint described how playing sports helped AM fully experience her identity, and the inability to rejoin her friends on the team would be a painful reminder that she’s not accepted by others just because she’s trans.

AM’s mother described how she watched her daughter “come out of her shell” and feel “more at ease in her skin” after joining the softball team last fall. She said that AM was “hurt and angry” after she learned about the new law and wanted to fight it as a result.

“She wants to stand up for girls like her, as well as herself, because she knows how upset they are right now,” AM’s mum said. “She wanted me to share that, ‘We can’t expect kids to say the Pledge of Allegiance and “liberty and justice for all” while not giving liberty and justice to all.’”

Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana, said that barring trans girls from school sports because of “misinformation about biology and gender” amounts to the “same form of sex discrimination that has long been prohibited under Title IX”. 

“Girls like AM simply want to access the same opportunities as their peers and denying them that right jeopardises their mental health and physical well-being,” Falk added.

The overwhelming votes by both chambers of the Indiana legislature underscore a national movement by Republicans to push anti-trans measures into law, especially those that target trans youth.

Indiana now joins 16 states across the US that have passed measures restricting how trans youth can participate in athletics. In 2022 alone, conservative lawmakers in IowaSouth DakotaOklahoma, Arizona, UtahKentucky and South Carolina have enacted trans sports bans.

A person holds up a sign reading "We support trans/queer athletes" during a counter-protest

Counter-protestors gather to support trans swimmer Lia Thomas at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on 17 March 2022. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty)

Trans youth and their families in Texas have been subjected to horrific attacks in recent months as a result of anti-trans measures pushed by lawmakers.

Governor Greg Abbott ordered in February that the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) should investigate supportive families and doctors seeking to provide or assist trans youth access gender-affirming healthcare. 

Countless expertsparents and celebrities have sounded alarm bells as a legal battle to provide trans youth with vital medical care ensued in recent months. 

The state’s Supreme Court handed down a mixed ruling on trans healthcare for minors on 13 May. The court lifted the statewide injunction blocking investigations of parents of trans youth while stopping such probes of one family.

The ruling also confirmed that Abbott didn’t have the authority to order DFPS to investigate these families. 

Texas governor Greg Abbott talks to a crowd during a campaign rally

The Texas Supreme Court ruled in May that governor Greg Abbott doesn’t have the power to order state officials to investigate the families of trans youth for “child abuse”. (Getty/Brandon Bell)

One mother, who lives in Austin, told NBC News that she got a call from a DFPS investor who said that she was being investigated once again for supporting her trans son. 

The mum, referred to as L in the article, previously told the outlet that the state opened a case against her after receiving “multiple reports of abuse” regarding the care she provided to her son before he turned 18 in February. 

She was told that the case had been paused as the battle continued in courts. But L said she got a call on Monday (23 May) from a new agent who said the case was now “active” as “they had new allegations”. 

“I think they’re trying to make an example of me, because I’m a social worker, too,” L said. “So it’s more about the career. You can’t take my kid. He’s 18. He can live wherever he wants.”

Ian Pittman, a lawyer representing two other families under investigation, confirmed to NBC News that one of his clients also got a call from the DFPS.