Senator Beth Mizell’s “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” was reported out of committee with amendments and voted on by the full Senate on April 19. The measure passed by a vote of 29 to 6. The proposed law, SB 44, will have the effect of prohibiting transgender females, those assigned as male at birth, from competing in traditional women’s sports.
Gov. Edwards vetoed the same measure last year and foiled the Legislature’s attempt at an override in a special session. Regarding this new effort, the Governor said, “I don’t think you all have ever heard me announce from this podium before a bill gets to my desk that I’m going to veto it because I always think that there’s an opportunity and a path forward to working things out,” he said. “So that may not be necessary, but I will tell you that my views haven’t changed.”
According to the SB 44 digest, the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” requires an athletic team or sporting event sponsored by an elementary, secondary, or postsecondary educational institution to be designated, based upon the biological sex of team members, as only one of the following: (1) A males’, boys’, or men’s team or event only for students who are biological males.
(2) A females’, girls’, or women’s team or event only for students who are biological females. (3) A coeducational or mixed team or event for students who are biological males or biological females.
Among other provisions, the proposed law provides that certain persons are entitled to legal causes of action and legal remedies under proposed law. A biological female student who is deprived of an athletic opportunity or suffers or is likely to suffer from any direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of proposed law.
The proposed law provides that requiring a biological female to compete against a biological male on a team that is designated as a “female”, “girls'”, or “women’s” team is inherently discriminatory to biological females and is a cognizable harm under proposed law.
In the 2021 Session, Senator Mizell’s SB 156, easily passed both the Senate (29–6–4) and the House (78–19–8).
But on June 22, 2021, Gov. Edwards announced he had vetoed the bill, stating “… discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana.” And, “Further, it would make life more difficult for transgender children, who are some of the most vulnerable Louisianans when it comes to issues of mental health.”
On July 20 the Legislature convened a veto override session for the first time since the 1974 constitution. Sources report a primarily reason for the session was to override the veto on Mizell’s SB 156.
The Senate narrowly overcame the veto with a 26–12–1 vote. However, the House vote, 68–30- 6, fell two votes short of the super majority needed to override the Governor’s veto.
The text of the currently proposed law states: “A recent study of female and male Olympic performances found that, although athletes from both sexes improved over the time span, the athletic gender performance gap between female and male performances remained stable. These studies suggest that women’s performances at a high level will never match those of men.”
Mizell’s bill highlights the crossroads of transgender individuals’ rights and the rights of biological female athletes. The issue has galvanized both the political left and right across the country.
The American Psychological Association opposes these measures, stating, “Transgender children vary in athletic ability, just as other youth do. There is no evidence to support claims that allowing transgender student athletes to play on the team that fits their gender identity would affect the nature of the sport or competition.”
The Louisiana Psychological Association opposed the 2021 SB 156 and the Louisiana School
Psychological Association labeled the bill as discriminatory.