Louisiana House fails to override veto on transgender sports ban bill
Louisiana's House failed to override Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards veto on a bill to ban transgender athletes from competing on girls sports teams Wednesday, leaving Republicans empty-handed in the historic veto session.
House lawmakers were two votes short in securing the two-thirds majority needed to overturn Edwards' veto on Senate Bill 156 by Republican Sen. Beth Mizell to ban transgender athletes from competing on girls sports teams.
The final vote was 68-30 in favor of the override, short of the 70 votes needed. Senators had successfully voted 26-12 Tuesday to override the transgender veto, the exact number of yes votes needed to reach the two-thirds requirement in that chamber.
After the House couldn't muster the votes to override the transgender bill, lawmakers in the Senate and House decided not to test any of the other vetoes and adjourned the session after just two days.
Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Metairie, carried the bill for Mizell in the House Wednesday.
"This is simply about one thing — fairness in women's sports," said Schlegel, saying this was the bill that triggered Louisiana's first veto session. "It's because of this bill that we're here today, breaking tradition.
"Respecting biological differences is not discrimination; it's not hate."
But Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, called the bill "unnecessary," saying it targeted "a problem that doesn't exist" since there are no confirmed instances of any transgender athletes yet competing on Louisiana high school girls teams.
He also said the bill "marginalizes our most vulnerable children. It's nothing but a wedge issue aimed at dividing us," Duplessis said.
Mizell said she intends to bring the bill back next year.
"I'm incredibly disappointed," she said. "I thought the House would hear the people of the state, but politics won out."
On Monday Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales said he was "comfortable 100%" that there were enough Democrats who would vote with the GOP members to overturn the veto, but it wasn't to be.
Rep. Francis Thompson of Delhi was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans to override the governor, while Rep. Joe Stagni of Kenner was the only Republican defection to sustain the veto.
Sustaining the transgender veto will sent lawmakers home without overturning a single veto from the Regular Session that ended in June.
The transgender sports bill and Republican Sen. Jay Morris' Senate Bill 118 to allow anyone 21 and older to carry a concealed firearm without a permit or training were the top two veto override targets of the GOP-dominated Legislature.
Morris' attempt to override failed in the Senate on Tuesday before ever making it to the House.
Edwards said he was "profoundly grateful" his vetoes were sustained, saying the transgender bill in particular was "mean" and "directed at our most emotionally fragile children" for a problem that doesn't exist in Louisiana.
"At the end of the day the Legislature got this right," he said. "But I'm not gloating because we've got too much serious business to do."
Edwards said in his veto message the transgender bill promoted discrimination against vulnerable transgender youth. He also said the bill could threaten the state's hosting of the 2022 NCAA Final Four set in New Orleans and other NCAA events.
In April, the NCAA issued a statement saying it "firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports" and said its policy "directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected."
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.