The Indiana Senate on Tuesday refused to amend a Republican-backed bill that would ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity, putting it on the fast track to passing.
If the full Senate approves the bill, which could happen as soon as Thursday, it would head to the governor for consideration. The Indiana House already passed it.
The governor has not publicly stated a position on the proposal. A spokesperson for the governor's office did not provide additional comment on Tuesday.
Lawmakers in the Senate are moving forward with the ban — making no changes to its language — after the House advanced the bill last month, largely along party lines.
Five Republican senators joined the 11 Senate Democrats Tuesday in an unsuccessful effort to prevent the ban from moving forward by sending the issue to a special study committee that would meet after this year’s legislative session ends. Those Republicans were Ron Alting of Lafayette, Eric Bassler of Washington, Vaneta Becker of Evansville, Chip Perfect of Lawrenceburg and Kyle Walker of Indianapolis.
Another failed amendment offered by Democratic Sen. J.D. Ford, of Indianapolis, would have required the the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) to maintain policies regarding athlete eligibility based on gender.
A separate defeated proposal offered by Ford would have established a scholarship fund for transgender athletes and required the Indiana Attorney General’s Office to contribute money equivalent to what is spent annually fighting lawsuits against the potential new law.
Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union have maintained that the group will file a lawsuit if the “hateful legislation” is signed into law in Indiana.
Corrine Youngs, policy director and legislative counsel to Attorney General Todd Rokita, has testified at the Statehouse in support of the bill, noting that Rokita’s office sees the bill as a way of protecting “the amazing progress made for women” in athletics. She added that the bill is “constitutional,” and if it’s challenged, "we will defend it in court.”
Ford said defending such a law would be “terrible” for Indiana's image and a "waste” of taxpayer dollars.
“Senators, these are kids that we are actively attacking,” Ford said Tuesday. “To me, we can have debate on the LGBTQ-plus community, but we do not and should not have a debate on human existence for these kids.”
Rep. Michelle Davis, a Republican from Greenwood who authored the bill, said its purpose is to “maintain fair competition in girls sports.”
Opponents maintain that the bill is unconstitutional, sexist and bigoted, emphasizing that it targets already vulnerable transgender Hoosier youth. They also say it amounts to a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.
Emma Vosicky, executive director of GenderNexus, an Indianapolis-based social service agency for trans and nonbinary people and their families, emphasized that transgender students in Indiana already participate in school sports “without issue.”
The proposal would prohibit K-12 students who were born male but who identify as female from participating in a sport or on an athletic team that is designated for women or girls. But it wouldn’t prevent students who identify as female or transgender men from playing on men’s sports teams. It also would not apply to sports at the collegiate level.
Former Indiana Republican Rep. Christy Stutzman proposed similar legislation in 2020, although the bill did not advance from the House education committee.
Democrats have maintained that such bills are “discriminatory” and “harmful to kids.” They also contend that the IHSAA already has a policy that requires transgender girls who want to play sports to show they’ve completed hormone therapy, and that their muscle mass or bone density is typical of other girls the same age.
If the bill passes the Legislature, Indiana could be the 11th Republican-dominated state to adopt such a ban on transgender women or girls. Federal judges have halted enforcement of the laws in two of those states, Idaho and West Virginia. The U.S. Department of Justice has challenged bans in other states, slamming them as violations of federal law.
Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Smith on Twitter.