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Wisconsin Governor Vetoes Ban on Transgender Athletes Playing on Sports Teams That Do Not Match Biological Sex

Republicans do not have the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor's veto.

Wisconsin Governor Vetoes Ban on Transgender Athletes Playing on Sports Teams That Do Not Match Biological Sex

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, has vetoed a ban on transgender student-athletes playing on sports teams that do not match their biological sex.

Evers, in a lengthy letter about his veto of Assembly Bill 377, said that he objects to "codifying discrimination into state statute" and called the Republican-led legislation "hateful."

“I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to codifying discrimination into state statute,” Evers wrote on Tuesday.

The law would have required school boards, independent charter schools, and private schools to designate each athletic team as male, female, or male and female (coed). They would then be required to assign participants to teams that match their sex "as determined at birth and reflected on the participant's birth certificate."

The State Assembly passed the bill in October on a 63-35 vote, and the State Senate passed it on a 21-11 vote last month. Both were split along party lines.

Evers claims that the bill violates federal law by discriminating based on sex. He wrote, "on June 16, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education released a notice of interpretation declaring that the Title IX prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, which is inclusive of transgender students."

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education has proposed a rule to clarify the role of gender identity in sports participation for schools receiving federal funding (including K-12 schools), developed in consideration of thousands of comments from parents, schools, coaches, and students. The proposed rule would prohibit schools from categorically banning transgender students from participating in athletics consistent with those students' gender identity. Although not yet final, the proposed rule reflects the intent and spirit of Title IX protections for student athletes. Therefore, ultimately, this bill may be a violation of Title IX's guarantee of rights to athletic participation for all students, not a protection of the rights of a subset of students.

The governor concluded his message by saying, "Finally, and importantly, I believe this bill fails to comport with our Wisconsin values. We expect our kids to treat each other with kindness, respect, empathy, and compassion, and we should be able to expect adults to lead by example. I urge the Republican majority to do so while fully considering the harmful consequences its efforts and actions have on our kids prior to introducing similar legislation in the future."

Neither chamber has a two-thirds majority needed to override the governor's veto.

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