The Kentucky Legislature has voted to override governor Andy Beshear's veto of Senate Bill 83, which bans transgender girls from participating in girls' sports.
Under the bill, schools would need to identify each sports team as either "boys," "girls" or "coed." The bill says all students would be allowed to play on boys or coed teams. But girls' teams "shall not be open to members of the male sex," as reported by NBC affiliate WLEX in Lexington.
The override passed the Senate in a 29-8 vote and in the House in a 72-23 vote. Senate Bill 83 included an emergency clause, meaning the bill is now law in Kentucky.
"This is a huge win for the integrity of women’s sports and with the inevitable enactment of Senate Bill 83 into law," state senator Robby Mills, who sponsored the bill, said. "Kentucky is a leading voice for female athletes across the nation. The Kentucky General Assembly stands in support of female athletes everywhere as they work hard to achieve their goals and dreams."
In a press conference Wednesday, University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines said she has no hateful feelings toward University of Pennsylvania swimmer and NCAA champion Lia Thomas or any other transgender athletes. She said they are not the problem, the rules are.
"I know I speak for the majority of female athletes across every NCAA sport when I say biological males should not be competing against women," Gaines said. "It's crucial for the NCAA to open its eyes and recognize the irrefutable damage being done to everything Title IX stands for: equity, fairness and creating opportunities for women to succeed at an elite level and in life."
Gaines said there is an unfair biological advantage when trans girls and women are allowed to compete in girls' sports.
"We cannot ignore the biological and anatomical differences between males and females that are blatantly obvious and scientifically proven," Gaines said. "Things like heart size, lung size, which affects aerobic capacity, and larger and denser skeletal structures all play a factor. These things are particularly prominent with respect to activities where speed, size, power and strength or cardiorespiratory characteristics are determinative of performance."
She said while hormonal suppression does slowly decrease testosterone levels, the previously mentioned advantages do not disappear and will never disappear.
Previously, the bill passed the House and Senate and went to Beshear's desk for his signature, but he chose to veto the bill, citing the Kentucky High School Athletic Association's current policies as sufficient to prevent an unfair advantage in girls' sports.
Specifically, the KHSAA requires student-athletes to participate according to the gender as listed on their birth certificate unless they were "legally reassigned." It also requires trans athletes who have not gone through puberty to undergo sex reassignment. After puberty, student-athletes must have undergone surgical anatomical changes and hormonal therapy.
"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. "The KHSAA attempted to do that, but Senate Bill 83 prevents it."
"Shame on the Kentucky General Assembly for attacking trans kids today," said Chris Hartman, executive director for the Fairness Campaign in a statement following the news. "Shame on our commonwealth's lawmakers for passing the first explicitly anti-LGBTQ law in Kentucky in almost a decade."
As reported by WLEX, the bill also says the Kentucky Board of Education, the KHSAA, school districts or schools will not be allowed to "entertain a complaint, open an investigation, or take any other adverse action" against schools for preventing transgender girls from playing on girls teams. However, the bill would allow students "deprived of an athletic opportunity" or who suffer harm from transgender girls playing on girls' teams to sue their school district.
"The bill is a carbon copy of the anti-trans bills sweeping the nation this past year and ignores the policies that were already in place to ensure an equal playing field for student-athletes," Hartman said. "We look forward to the lawsuit that's sure to come. If we can't protect Kentucky's trans kids in our legislature, we'll protect them in our courts."