Wisconsin’s Governor Just Blocked an Anti-Trans School Sports Ban

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has vetoed a ban on transgender students competing on sports teams that align with their identities, making good on his promise to block anti-LGBTQ+ bills.

In his veto message on Tuesday, Evers wrote that Assembly Bill 377, which would have required student athletes to compete on gendered teams matching the sex listed on their birth certificates, “fails to comport with our Wisconsin values,” calling out Republican state legislators for targeting trans youth.

“We expect our kids to treat each other with kindness, respect, empathy, and compassion, and we should be able to expect adults to lead by example,” Evers wrote. “I urge the Republican majority to do so while fully considering the harmful consequences its efforts and actions have on our kids prior to introducing similar legislation in the future.”

AB 377 was introduced in Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature last August, passing the Assembly in October, and clearing the Senate on March 12. In addition to restricting trans athletes, the legislation would have created an avenue for cis female students to take legal action against a school if they felt they had been deprived of athletic opportunities. As CBS News noted, Republicans had enough votes to get the bill to Evers’ desk but do not have the numbers to override his veto.

In his veto message, Evers further pointed out that AB 377 ignores a 2015 Wisconsin policy regarding trans student athlete participation, which gives individual schools the power to govern trans student athletics. The policy, modeled after the NCAA’s requirements for trans athletes, requires trans women to undergo hormone therapy for a year before competing on women’s teams, and mandates that trans men compete on men’s team’s after starting testosterone. Evers’ message also noted that the legislation could violate federal non-discrimination law; namely, it constitutes a potential “violation of Title IX’s guarantee of rights to athletic participation for all students, not a protection of the rights of a subset of students.”

“States across this country may give way to radical policies targeting LGBTQ+ individuals and families and threatening LGBTQ+ folks’ everyday lives and their ability to be safe, valued, supported, and welcome being who they are,” Evers wrote in the conclusion to his veto message. “As long as I am the governor of this great state, Wisconsin will not be among them.”

In December, Evers also vetoed a ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors. His veto message was similar to the one he released for AB 377, writing that he would block “any bill that makes Wisconsin a less safe, less inclusive, and less welcoming place for LGBTQ people and kids.”

Evers’ veto means that Wisconsin has narrowly avoided becoming the 26th state to bar trans athletes from participating on a team consistent with their gender identity, according to a tally maintained by the Movement Advancement Project.

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