Kentucky governor halts bill that would ban transgender students from women's sports

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks with reporters at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis Feb. 23, 2022. Gov. Holcomb is facing criticism from many fellow Republicans for his veto on legislation banning transgender females from competing in girls school sports.

Tom Davies / Tom Davies

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed a bill this week that would mandate student athletes to participate in sports based on the sex written on their birth certificate.

Senate Bill 83, known as the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” passed the state Senate 26-9 and was sent to Beshear on March 25. Beshear’s veto came on Wednesday.

“Transgender children deserve public officials’ efforts to demonstrate that they are valued members of our communities through compassion, kindness and empathy, even if not understanding,” Beshear said in a letter.

The bill said that K-12 schools belonging to the Kentucky Board of Education “shall designate all athletic teams, activities and sports for students in grades six through twelve as one of the following categories: ‘boys,’ ‘coed’ or ‘girls.'”

At public colleges in the state, the bill would have disallowed transgender women from participating in both intercollegiate and intramural sports.

Bill clashed with state athletic participation rules

Additionally, the bill stated that for Kentucky students wanting to participate in sports, their sex would be determined by the sex printed on their birth certificate and an affidavit from a doctor ascertaining that information.

Beshear noted in a letter that the Kentucky High School Athletic Association encourages transgender students to participate in sports, free from discrimination.

“Senate Bill 83 bans transgender children from participating in girls’ or women’s sports without presenting a single instance in Kentucky of a child gaining a competitive advantage as a result of sex reassignment,” Beshear said in a letter.

KHSAA rules state that a student athlete may participate in sports geared toward their opposite sex if they have undergone hormonal therapy for a certain length of time and have been legally reassigned, which may be demonstrated by a birth certificate, driver’s license, passport or medical record.

Additionally, if a transgender student athlete stops hormonal therapy, they must participate in the sport that coincides with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Senate Bill 83 does not “restrict the eligibility of any student to participate in an athletic activity or sport designated as ‘boys’ or ‘coed,'” the bill says.

The state board, school districts who are members of the state board and agencies overseeing athletics in the state would be prohibited from taking legal action or “any other adverse action” against a school for banning transgender students from girls’ sports, the bill stipulated.

Some amendments to the bill suggest restricting students in grades 6 through 12 from the rule, and giving students who were assigned female at birth the option to take legal action to enforce the proposed act.

Republican governors Spencer Cox and Eric Holcomb, in Utah and Indiana, respectively, vetoed similar bills last month.

Holcomb said it was unclear if the procedures outlined in the bill would be applied consistently in schools across Indiana. Other states that enacted similar bans were facing lawsuits that, in some cases, stopped the bans from being enforced, he said.

In Utah, Cox explained his veto in a letter to legislative leaders: “I must admit, I am not an expert on transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion.”

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