Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have barred biologically male student-athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ sports at public and private schools in the state.
The Republican-backed measure, titled the Fairness in Womens’ Sports Act, “discriminates against transgender children,” the Democratic governor said in a veto letter signed on Wednesday, noting that the bill “most likely” violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection rights and it offers no example of an unfair advantage by a transgender student.
Kentucky’s Republican-dominated legislature still has a chance to force Senate Bill 83 through and override Beshear’s veto with a majority vote in both houses, which is expected to happen in mid-April.
If the bill does pass with a majority vote in both houses, it will not ban transgender student-athletes from playing sports, but it will require them to participate in competitive activities according to the child’s original birth certificate from sixth grade through college.
Republican Sen. Robby Mills, the bill’s lead sponsor, has said the measure would ensure girls and women compete against other biological females.
Mills has said the bill reflects concerns from parents across the Bluegrass State. He said it “thinks ahead” to prevent situations where girls or women are unfairly competing against biological males.
“It would be crushing for a young lady to train her whole career to … end up competing against a biological male in the state tournament or state finals,” Mills said during a debate on the bill.
In his veto message, Beshear argued that the state already has guidelines enforced by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) regarding transgender student-athletes.
“The KHSAA has approached the issue of transgender sports participation with nuance, collaboration and a sense of fairness that would allow transgender children the opportunity to participate in sports without disturbing the competitive balance,” Beshear said.
“Under the KHSAA policy, a student-athlete cannot compete if they have an unfair advantage,” he noted. “The KHSAA policy requires that a student-athlete who has undergone sex reassignment after puberty must take hormonal therapy in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient length of time to minimize gender-related advantages in competition.”
The Family Foundation, a Christian policy organization in Kentucky, has called on the General Assembly in a statement to override Beshear’s veto, saying the foundation “expressed disappointment” in the governor’s veto that “puts woke politics above ensuring fairness for the Commonwealth’s female athletes.”
“Kentucky girls and women deserve a fair playing field,” said David Walls, executive director of The Family Foundation. “Kentuckians overwhelmingly support this commonsense bill, but unfortunately, Gov. Beshear chose to side with his woke political base instead of Kentucky’s female athletes.”
Kentucky is not the first state to veto transgender athlete-related legislation. The governors of Utah and Indiana, both Republicans, have also recently vetoed similar legislation.
GOP lawmakers in Utah overrode the veto from Gov. Spencer Cox (R-Utah) in late March to push through a ban on transgender youth in girls’ sports, with the measure going into effect on July 1. Utah became the 12th state to enact some form of a ban on transgender athletes in school sports. Lawmakers in Indiana are expected to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R-Ind.) veto as well.
The other 11 states with similar laws are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.