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Wisconsin governor vetoes transgender athlete ban

Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers rejected a proposal Tuesday to ban transgender student-athletes from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity, calling the Republican-led legislation “hateful and discriminatory” and part of a broader attack on transgender rights nationwide.
“I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to codifying discrimination into state statute,” Evers wrote Tuesday in a lengthy veto message for Assembly Bill 377, which passed the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature earlier this month.
“I believe this bill fails to comport with our Wisconsin values. 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.”
The bill, which Evers had repeatedly promised to veto, would have required Wisconsin public and private schools to designate participation in interscholastic, intramural and club sports based on student-athletes’ sex assigned at birth, rather than gender identity.
Republicans in the state Legislature argued that such a measure is needed to maintain a level playing field in women’s sports, while Democrats slammed the proposal as an attack on an already vulnerable population.
The bill passed the state Assembly in October in a party-line 63-35 vote. The state Senate sent the measure to Evers last month in a 21-11 vote that was similarly split along party lines. Neither chamber has the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.
Evers in his veto message said the bill ignores a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association policy that has governed the eligibility of transgender high school athletes in the state since 2015. Under that policy, which is modeled after NCAA guidelines, transgender women and girls must undergo at least a full year of hormone therapy before they are able to play on female sports teams.
The Legislature’s proposal also conflicts with federal law because it discriminates based on sex, Evers wrote, citing a 2021 notice of interpretation from the Education Department that Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The Biden administration’s proposed revamp to the landmark civil rights law would prevent states from enacting blanket bans on transgender student-athletes.
At least 24 states since 2020 have enacted laws that categorically ban transgender athletes from competing on school sports teams that match their gender identity.
“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 his veto message. “As long as I am governor of this great state, Wisconsin will not be among them.”

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