Indiana Lawmakers Override Republican Governor’s Veto, Pursuing Their Fixation on Discriminating Against Transgender Schoolchildren

by Delphine Luneau

House Bill 1041 Will Prevent Transgender Students From Taking Part in School Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers today voted to override Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of House Bill 1041, a piece of legislation that forbids transgender children from taking part in school sports on the teams that match their gender identity. In response, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — condemned the votes in the state Senate and House of Representatives as discriminatory, unnecessary and contrary to all evidence.

“My sympathy is with transgender kids in Indiana today as they watch their lawmakers – who are supposed to be working to make a better future for Indiana’s youth – instead attack a group of children for political gain.” said Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel. “We saw that this doesn’t need to be a partisan issue when the governor rightly vetoed this bill and said he couldn’t find any evidence that trans kids playing sports was a problem in the state. The backers of the bill could not summon even a single example where someone was harmed or even affected as a result of trans kids participating in school sports. But transgender kids, even those who have no interest in playing sports, will be harmed by this law. They’ll be denied a chance to play, to learn about teamwork and responsibility, and all the other benefits that come from playing school sports – all because a bunch of legislators are pandering to a far-right portion of their base.”
“This legislation is wrong, it is unnecessary, it is damaging to the mental and physical wellbeing of a vulnerable population of kids, and I look forward to the day when this law is overturned or repealed.”

The veto override comes after a recent survey showed that 52.1% of LGBTQ+ people in Indiana had reported experiencing depression in the prior two weeks, more than twice the number of non-LGBTQ+ Indianans reporting the same. Politicians are culpable for the harm they cause by subjecting vulnerable youth to continued legislative attacks.

LGBTQ+ kids have real threats and obstacles to overcome. 86% of LGBTQ+ youth report they have been targets of bullying, harassment, or assault at school. Studies have shown that bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ youth contribute to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences, and academic underachievement. Kids want to play sports for the same reasons: to be part of a team, to learn discipline, and above all, to have fun with their friends. Kids shouldn’t be banned from sports because of who they are.

The wave of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country has garnered significant opposition from the business community, and that especially includes businesses with notable footprints in Indiana. In late February, Salesforce, Elanco Animal Health, Pepsi Co, alongside 38 companies with significant operations in Indiana, joined more than 150+ major companies vocally opposing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Indiana and across the country. These companies represent nearly 25,000 employees in Indiana.

In a press conference before HB 1041 passed in the Indiana Senate, the Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley, State Senator JD Ford (District 29), Greencastle City Councilor Veronica Pejril and activist Dana Black called out the Indiana General Assembly for partnering with a national hate group – the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – to pass House Bill 1041. The ADF is currently embarking on a national campaign against the country’s transgender community, and HB 1041 is their latest tactic. In fact, the ADF and Idaho State Rep. Barbara Ehardt have both collaborated with state legislators and testified in support of this legislation in multiple states – including Idaho, Montana, and now Indiana. According to a 2021 poll, only about 30 percent of Republican voters support legislation like House Bill 1041.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the ADF as a national hate group for their longstanding opposition to the LGBTQ+ community. Their work includes efforts to criminalize LGBTQ+ relationships, opposing settled law like marriage equality, and even opposing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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