State Capitol

The Louisiana State Capitol

After moving through the Louisiana Senate, the Louisiana House failed to override the governor’s veto on a bill that would’ve banned transgender athletes from competing on girls sports teams.

Needing 70 votes to pass, the final tally on Wednesday was 68-30 in favor of the override, two votes shy. This came one day after senators successfully voted 26-12 to override the transgender veto, the exact number of votes needed to reach the two-thirds requirement in that chamber.

Both chambers adjourned hours later, bringing the historic veto override session to a close. None of the vetoes on 28 other bills were reversed.

“At the end of the day, the Legislature got it right,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a press conference Wednesday.

Senate Bill 156 — known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act — sought to prevent transgender girls and women from playing on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools.

Those in support of the bill have said it was a way to protect biological females from having to compete against biological males. Those against the bill have called it discriminatory.

Sponsored by Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, the bill was passed by the Senate on a 29-6 vote and by the House 78-19 during the 2021 Regular Legislative Session.

But Edwards’ ultimately vetoed the bill, an unsurprising move given his public stance on the issue in the preceding weeks. During the legislative session, Edwards repeatedly said he would veto a bill that “would make life more difficult for transgender children, who are some of the most vulnerable Louisianans when it comes to issues of mental health.”

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in a statement at the time of the veto.

Edwards’ veto of SB156 — along with the veto of Senate Bill 118, which would’ve allowed Louisiana residents to carry concealed handguns without a permit — ultimately led to the historic veto session this week, which got off to a rough start.

On the first day of the historic session, Louisiana transgender and gender non-conforming rights activists arrived at the Capitol to voice their opposition to SB 156. The group, Real Name Campaign NOLA, made their voices heard from the balcony while holding a sign that read, “Protect Trans Youth.”

Activists were escorted out of the chamber as House Speaker Clay Schexnayder was speaking at the podium.

Speaking to NBC 33, activist Mar Ehrlich said: “Schools and sports teams are meant to be safe places for kids to be themselves, to try something new, to find friends and to build a support system.”

“There should be bills and solutions working towards making sure our schools, public schools especially, are more inclusive to all types of children.”

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Senate was unable to garner enough votes to nix the governor’s veto of SB 118, which would have removed training and permitting requirements to carry a concealed weapon.

Needing 26 votes to advance to the House, it failed on a 23-15 vote.

During his press conference, the governor took a diplomatic approach and said he still intends to work with those who attempted to override his vetoes.

“They’re still Louisianans, they’re still legislators, they’re still people that I intend to work with to move Louisiana forward over the next two and a half years for the remainder of this term,” Edwards said. “We just had disagreements.”

Schexnayder released a statement Wednesday evening at the conclusion of the session, saying he was “frustrated” by the result of the day’s vote but that “we… will not stop fighting.”

“The vote to override Governor Edwards’ veto of the Fairness in Women's Sports Act fell two votes short today,” Schexnayder said. “While I am frustrated by the result, I am encouraged by the fact that we did something that has never been done in this state in asserting our legislative independence.

“Veto sessions should be the norm from now on as Louisiana's constitution instructs. We have separate and equal branches of government for a reason. We will bring this bill back next year and will not stop fighting.”

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