Gender dysphoric men will not be allowed to compete on girls' and women's sports teams in Louisiana after the Fairness in Women's Sports Act became law on Monday.
Though Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards opposed the transgender sports ban, he permitted it to become law without his signature because the GOP-controlled legislature had made clear it would override his veto.
"This legislation unfairly targets vulnerable children who are already struggling with gaining acceptance in every aspect of their lives," Edwards wrote in a letter explaining his decision. "Nevertheless, the legislature has made it clear over the last two regular legislative sessions that it believes the policy of the state should be to treat these children differently than who they really are."
"It was obvious to me after two years it was going to become law whether or not I signed or vetoed the bill," the governor said.
The governor's action makes Louisiana the 18th state to ban men who identify as women from playing in girls and women's sports leagues. Supporters of these bans say men have biological advantages over women that, regardless of how they identify or which hormone supplements they take, make competition between the two sexes unfair. Critics of these transgender sports bans say they are discriminatory, bigoted, hateful, and harmful to transgender athletes.
Republican state Sen. Beth Mizell, who sponsored the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, told USA Today her bill will protect female athletes from unfair competition.
"Women have worked too hard for too long to get to the competitive level we have attained to now face an unfair playing field," Mizell said.
Edwards argued in his letter that the bill was unnecessary because the Louisiana High School Athletics Association has policies for regulating how transgender athletes compete. He asserted that unfair competition is a problem that "doesn't exist in our state" and that the bill will "lead many of our transgender youth to believe there is something wrong with them."
A previous version of Mizell's sports bill passed last year but failed to overcome a veto by Edwards. Democratic opponents of the bill said it bullies transgender kids.
"These children, our children, will only see this as an attack," state House Democratic Chairman Sam Jenkins said during debate on the bill. "These kids will see us as bullies. Some people are just flat out uncomfortable with the existence of transgender children in our state."