Louisiana Senate president supports session to override veto on transgender sports ban
Republican Senate President Page Cortez said he favors a Legislative Session to override Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' veto of a bill to ban transgender athletes from competing on girls sports teams.
Cortez' support for a veto override session makes it almost inevitable since Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales has already called for lawmakers to return to the Capitol in Baton Rouge.
It would be the first veto override session since the new Louisiana Constitution was ratified in 1974.
Edwards announced his veto of Senate Bill 156 by Republican Franklinton Sen. Beth Mizell last week, saying it fosters discrimination against some of the state's "most vulnerable" children, though the veto hasn't officially reached the Senate.
“While the Legislature has not yet received any official veto messages from the governor, I believe that if the administration does ultimately veto SB156 (The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act) that the members of the Senate will likely proceed with the Constitutionally-mandated veto override session set to begin on July 20," Cortez said in a statement.
Mizell told USA Today Network last week she hoped her colleagues choose to return to override the governor.
Veto sessions are automatic unless a majority of lawmakers in both the House and the Senate vote to opt out, which is what has always happened before now. The deadline for ballots is July 15. By law the session would begin on July 20 and last no more than five days.
"Women have worked too hard for too long to get to the competitive level we have attained to now face an unfair playing field," Mizell told USA Today Network. "This was to protect biological girls to compete with biological girls."
Her bill passed with enough votes in both chambers to override the veto if members stick to their original votes.
Mizell's legislation would require the makeup of public schools' teams “shall be expressly designated, based upon biological sex.”
"As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana," Edwards said last week "Further, it would make life more difficult for transgender children who are some of the most vulnerable Louisianans when it comes to issues of mental health.
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"We should be looking for more ways to unite rather than divide our citizens."
Mizell her bill would protect girls and young women from facing athletes who would have a biological advantage because of their birth sex.
Edwards also warned in his veto message that imposing transgender restrictions could threaten the state's hosting of the 2022 NCAA Final Four set in New Orleans.
"... while there is no issue to be solved by this bill, it does present real problems in that it makes it more likely than NCAA and professional championships, like the 2022 Final Four, would not happen in our state," he said.
In April, the NCAA issued a statement saying it "firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports."
"When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected," the NCAA said. "We will continue to closely monitor these situations to determine whether NCAA championships can be conducted in ways that are welcoming and respectful of all participants."
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.