FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would require students from sixth grade through college to play on teams based on their biological sex, and the gender with which they identify.
Senate Bill 83, sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, would direct the Kentucky High School Athletics Association to develop administrative regulations or bylaws requiring schools that participate in interscholastic athletics to designate all athletic teams, activities and sports based upon the biological sex of the students eligible to participate, and prohibit male students from participating in athletic teams, activities and sports designated as “girls.”
In his veto message, the governor said, “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 disturbance the competitive balance.”
He pointed out the KHSAA “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.”
Beshear also noted that Republican governors in Indiana and Utah have vetoed similar bills. “They each mentioned the several lawsuits across the country challenging similar bills, with initial rulings enjoining their enforcement on equal protection grounds.”
The Family Foundation expressed disappointment in Gov. Beshear’s veto. “Kentucky girls and women deserve a fair playing field,” said David Walls, the executive director. “Kentuckians overwhelmingly support this commonsense bill, but unfortunately, Gov. Beshear chose to side with his woke political base instead of Kentucky’s female athletes. Biology matters, especially in sports, and we look forward to the General Assembly overriding Beshear’s tone-deaf veto so that women’s sports in Kentucky can be protected.”
He said the need for the Save Women’s Sports Act, and the necessity of including college athletes, has been on full display as swimmer Lia Thomas, a biological male, recently won a NCAA Women’s Swimming Championship, knocking a female to second place. In addition, Riley Gaines, a University of Kentucky female swimmer, also had her fifth-place trophy given to Lia Thomas after they tied during another NCAA championship race.
Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, applauded the governor. “From the start, this bill has been more about fear than fairness. In Kentucky’s entire school system, there is only one openly transgender girl we know playing on a school sports team. That student started on her school’s field hockey team, recruited all of the other team members, and just wants the opportunity to play with her friends her eighth-grade year.”
Hartman added, “Instead of solving Kentucky’s real problems, the politicians behind this bill have used their power to bully this student and others like her. At a previous House Committee hearing of the bill, those politicians had to fly in people from out of state to give testimony in support of the bill, because few Kentuckians would. The bill is a carbon copy of the anti-trans bills sweeping the nation this past year, which ignore the policies already in place to ensure an equal playing field for student-athletes.”
Lawmakers can override the veto when they return April 13 for the last two days of the session.