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Indiana General Assembly approves ban on trans girls in girls school sports, sends to governor

Lauren Chapman
IPB News
According to the Trevor Project, ​​85 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth said recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

Indiana lawmakers approved a bill Tuesday to ban transgender girls from girls school sports.

House Bill 1041 didn't get changed at all in the Senate, which means with a majority of the chamber's approval Tuesday, the bill now heads to Gov. Eric Holcomb's desk for his signature. The House approved the bill in January.

Lawmakers behind the bill have insisted their goal is to protect the integrity of female athletes and sports competitions.

The bill's Senate sponsor, Sen. Stacey Donato (R-Logansport), was met with several questions from Democrats during the bill's floor debate. She said she did not meet with the Indiana High School Athletic Association or any transgender people who she would classify as athletes to discuss the bill.

READ MORE: Indiana bill to ban transgender girls from girls school sports passes Senate committee

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues. Trying to follow along with our coverage of the legislative session? We've compiled all the stories our reporters have published by bill number and topic here.

But most of the questions posed to Donato went unanswered. Many times, she instead referred back to her previously stated intent or the text of the legislation itself. She repeatedly said that the focus of the bill was about maintaining physical integrity of girls' sports.

Sen. Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) and others against the proposal – including Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) – have said they don't buy the argumentthat the bill is about fairness.

"This is politics, politics, politics all day long. Shame on us," Breaux said.

Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) also spoke against the legislation, comparing it to racist policies in the past that prevented Black people from playing on integrated athletic teams.

"All this stuff about physical integrity, it didn't start with this legislation – it started when Black athletes couldn't play with white athletes," Taylor said. "Are we going forward or are we going back with this legislation?"

The bill faced pushback throughout this session from medical experts, student athletes, and LGBTQ+ Hoosiers and allies, with many pointing to the harm it would do to transgender children. National data shows high rates of suicidal ideation by LGBTQ+ – and especially transgender – youth, some of which is attributed to legislative policies focused on their identity.

Following the bill's approval, calls for Holcomb to veto the bill began circulating on social media – including from the ACLU, which has promised to file a lawsuit against the state should the bill become law.

The Trevor Project, a national nonprofit supporting the mental health of and preventing suicide among LGBTQ+ people, condemned the bill in a statement.

“This bill is not solving any actual problem in Indiana, but it is causing harm to actual trans youth in Indiana,” said Sam Ames, The Trevor Project director of advocacy and government affairs, in the statement. "Lawmakers must take into account the devastating impact that these bills themselves – and the ugly debates surrounding them – are having on a group of young people already at disproportionate risk for bullying and suicide."

The bill passed 32 to 18.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

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Jeanie Lindsay