Doug Burgum, North Dakota governor, vetoes bill barring transgender athletes from girls’ sports

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North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed Wednesday a bill to prohibit transgender athletes from competing in girls’ K-12 school sports, sending the ball back to the legislature’s court to see if Republicans have the votes for an override.

The Republican governor said that he had confidence in the North Dakota High School Activities Association to handle the issue, saying that “to date there has not been a single recorded incident of a transgender girl attempting to play on a North Dakota Girls’ team.”

“North Dakota today has a level playing field and fairness in girls’ sports,” Mr. Burgum said in his veto message, crediting NDHSAA leaders.

“We have every confidence that they will continue to ensure a level playing field for the 27,000 students who participate in North Dakota high school sports,” he said.

House Bill 1298 passed the state House by 69-25 and the Senate by 27-20, meaning that the bill’s sponsors would need a few more votes in the Senate to reach the two-thirds necessary for a veto override.

The ACLU of North Dakota, an opponent of such bills, said it was “thrilled with Gov. Burgum’s decision to veto this bill.”

“It was obvious from the beginning that this discriminatory legislation was about creating solutions to problems that don’t exist and, in the process, harming some of the most vulnerable people in our state,” said ACLU of North Dakota campaigns director Libby Skarin. “Nobody wins when politicians try to meddle in people’s lives like this. Nobody wins when we try to codify discrimination like this.”

The bill’s supporters had argued that allowing biological males, even those undergoing gender-transition treatment, threatens to destroy girls’ and women’s athletics by creating an unfair playing field.

North Dakota requires transgender athletes seeking to participate in girls’ sports to take drugs to decrease testosterone for a full calendar year before participating.

“This bill would unnecessarily inject the state into a local issue by creating a ban with myriad unforeseen consequences,” Mr. Burgum said.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, indicated Monday that she was unlikely to sign the state’s Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which has passed both houses, saying her state “doesn’t need to be passing any sorts of anti-progressive or really regressive legislation,” according to KSNT-TV in Toledo.

Governors in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have signed into law bills this year requiring scholastic athletes to participate in sports according to their sex at birth, while South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem issued executive orders on K-12 girls’ sports in March after vetoing a bill that included college athletics.

Idaho was the first state to pass a Fairness in Women’s Sports act when it did so last year, but the measure was stayed by a court pending a legal challenge.

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