(The Center Square) – Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a bill Monday that would have prohibited biological males from competing on girls’ sports teams in Indiana schools, saying he sees no evidence there is a problem in K-12 school sports that requires government intervention and he's worried the state would be sued.
The bill had passed the Indiana House 66-30 after being amended to remove college sports. It passed the Senate 32-18.
The bill was authored by Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Greenwood, a former high school athlete and Ball State University point guard who in 2012 was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. The hearings brought throngs of transgender activists to the Statehouse to testify against the bill but also many parents who spoke passionately of the need to protect girls' sports.
The bill defined male and female as “a student’s biological sex at birth in accordance with the student’s genetic and reproductive biology.”
In his letter to Speaker of the House Todd Huston, Holcomb wrote, “If it is the goal of HEA 1041 to provide clarity and one consistent state policy regarding the fairness in K-12 sports in Indiana, for me this current bill falls short.”
He went on to write the “wide-open nature” of the provision in the bill that outlines how someone can file a grievance for violation of the law “makes it unclear about how consistency and fairness will be maintained for parents and students across different school districts.”
Holcomb also said the Indiana High School Athletic Association raised this concern during testimony on the bill and said he shared this concern.
“Meaning, student-athletes could be treated differently according to which school they attend and compete for. Frustration of students, parents and administrators will likely follow," Holcomb wrote. "This of course only increases the likelihood of litigation against our schools with the courts having to adjudicate the uncertainties.”
The bill left it to school corporations to establish and maintain their own grievance procedures and said any student deprived of an opportunity because a school has violated the law can sue for injunctive relief, and schools may not take retaliatory action against that student.
“I think the governor is really tone deaf on this. I think he’s really out of touch,” Micah Clark, director of the American Family Association of Indiana, said on Tuesday morning, adding that the timing is “unbelievable” considering the huge amount of attention paid to the story of Lia Thomas, the University of Pennsylvania swimmer who competed as a male for three years before deciding to compete as a female, winning the 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA Division 1 Championships on March 17.
Following the veto, Attorney General Todd Rokita sent out a message by tweet, saying, “We stand by the law and will vigorously defend it in court if and hopefully when the General Assembly overrides the veto.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, of Fort Wayne, wrote on Twitter: “I’m disappointed with Gov. Holcomb’s veto of a commonsense bill that frankly doesn’t go far enough to Save Women’s Sports. My hope is that the Indiana General Assembly will meet soon to override the veto and send a message to the rest of the nation that Indiana values women.”
The Indiana General Assembly could override the veto at a technical corrections day scheduled for May 24. Only a simple majority in each house is required to override a veto.