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Indiana GOP Rebukes Republican Governor, Overrides Veto To Protect Female Athletes

After Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a bill to protect girls from unfair male competition in sports, the legislature overrode him.

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The Indiana General Assembly on Tuesday overrode Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of HB 1041, a bill forbidding males from participating on female sports teams in most K-12 schools.

HB 1041 is the second bill Holcomb vetoed from this session but the first to be passed over his veto. The bill applies to public schools, charter schools, and teams that compete against them.

“Women and girls deserve to compete on a level playing field,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Christiana Kiefer said in a statement. “We are grateful to the Indiana Legislature for responding to the nationwide threat to fairness in women’s sports by overriding Gov. Holcomb’s misguided veto of HB 1041. While more work must be done to protect Indiana’s female athletes in college, overriding this veto is an important step towards ensuring fairness in women’s sports.”

A student who is “deprived of an athletic opportunity” or otherwise injured by a violation of the law may bring a civil action against the school. The bill also allows a student or parent to submit a grievance to a school for violating the law, even if the student is not injured.

In his veto of HB 1041 Holcomb argued the latter provision could lead to inconsistency.

“[T]he wide-open nature of the grievance provisions in HEA 1041 that apply to all K-12 schools in Indiana makes it unclear about how consistency and fairness will be maintained for parents and students across different counties and school districts,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb also referenced lawsuits against similar legislation in other states. “In the two cases with initial rulings, the courts have enjoined or prohibited laws with these same substantive provisions from taking effect based on equal protections grounds,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb’s veto was overridden 67-28 in the House and 32-15 in the Senate.

“We commend the Indiana legislators who took a stand for female athletes by overriding this veto,” Kiefer said, “and we are hopeful they will act quickly to extend these protections to collegiate athletes, especially since the NCAA has failed in its duty to preserve fair and equal opportunity for women.”