Louisiana becomes 18th state to enact cruel anti-trans sports ban

Several people protest in support of trans rights and condemning trans sports bans bills popping up across the US. One person carries a sign reading 'Do you see me?' while the person nexts to them has a sign reading 'Trans rights'. In the background, several people are holding 'Trans rights are human rights' jackets

Louisiana has become the 18th state to enact legislation banning trans athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports after the governor took no action on the cruel bill.

Democrat governor John Bel Edwards’ decision not to veto or directly sign the measure means that the Republican-led state legislature successfully passed the trans sports ban into law. It comes nearly a year after Edwards vetoed a similar bill last year, describing it as “discriminatory”

As per state law, Edwards needed to take direct action on the bill by the end of the legislative session on Monday (6 June), allowing it to pass into law. 

Edwards said in a press conference that the legislation was “going to become law regardless of what I did”, according to the Louisiana Illuminator

“Acknowledging that reality is important, but what I feel about the bill hasn’t changed,” he said. 

He hoped there was a point in the future where “we realise that these young people are doing the very best they can to survive” in spite of hateful legislation. 

“Whether it’s intended or not, the effect is to send a strong message to these young people that they shouldn’t be who they think they are, who they know they are, who they believe they are,” he said. “I find that very distressing. I do believe we can be better than that.”

Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards stares slightly off camera while wearing a blue shirt and grey jacket

Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards argued the trans sports ban legislation would have “become law regardless of what I did”. (Getty/Jonathan Bachman)

The legislation, which goes into effect on 1 August, will require student-athletes to participate on sports teams that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate received at or near the time of their birth. 

This will apply to students enrolled at public K-12 schools, public universities and private post-secondary educational institutions that receive state funding. 

Peyton Rose Michelle, a spokeswoman for Louisiana Trans Advocates, was disappointed Edwards didn’t veto the trans sports ban after speaking to him personally and stressing how much “our community wanted him to veto this bill”. 

“I completely think there is a lot of value in vetoing the bill, even if there is an override,” Michelle said. “We have such a high suicide rate [among trans youth], we certainly don’t need any legislation pushing youth farther down that road.”

Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said Edwards’ decision not to take action on the bill “betrays his LGBTQ+ constituents and fails the transgender youth who were counting on his leadership”.

“Earlier this year, multiple Republican governors defied likely veto overrides to defend transgender youth,” she said. “Allowing this discriminatory bill to become law sends a dangerous message that protecting Louisiana’s transgender youth isn’t a priority.”

Oakley added the anti-trans measure has been engineered by “radical politicians” who are “targeting kids who just want to play sports”, “learn the values of teamwork”, “face healthy competition” and “have fun”. 

“These children were failed by their leaders,” Oakley said. 

Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards stands at a podium while wearing a white button up shirt, red tie and black jacket. He is gesturing with both of his hands while speaking to a crowd

Advocates say trans kids were “failed by their leaders” after governor John Bel Edwards’ inaction caused a trans sports ban to pass into law. (Paras Griffin/Getty for 2017 ESSENCE Festival )

Louisiana now joins 17 other states that have passed legislation banning trans athletes from school sports. Similar bills have been signed into law in: IowaSouth DakotaOklahoma, Arizona, KentuckyUtahSouth CarolinaIndianaArkansasAlabamaFloridaMississippiMontanaTexasIdahoTennessee and West Virginia

Several governors have vetoed trans sports bans including Republican governor Spencer Cox of Utah and Indiana’s Eric Holcomb. Both cited a lack of evidence that trans kids were at an unfair advantage in athletics in the states and cited concerns the ban would have a negative impact on the mental health of trans youth. 

However, Republican lawmakers in both states eventually overrode the vetoes and passed the trans sports bans into law. 

Kansas governor Laura Kelly also vetoed trans sports ban legislation in both 2021 and 2022, but legislators weren’t able to override her veto either year.