A new Indiana law barring transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams is having ramifications beyond the borders of the Hoosier State.
In response to the statute — enacted May 27 by the Republican-controlled General Assembly over the March 21 veto of Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb — the state of California no longer permits its employees or officials to travel to Indiana using public funds.
The California travel ban took effect July 1 at the same time as Indiana’s trans sports ban, according to Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta.
He said a 2016 California law prohibits state-funded and state-sponsored travel, with limited exceptions, to states that enact laws permitting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Bonta said Indiana’s new statute preventing trans girls from participating in intramural and interscholastic school sports consistent with their gender identity clearly is discriminatory, and Indiana therefore is subject to California’s travel ban.
Altogether, California now disallows travel by its employees and officials to 20 states, set to rise to 22 in coming months, including every Republican-led state that recently enacted a trans sports ban.
It’s not known how much money California state employees spend in Indiana. But Indiana regularly hosts a wide variety of conventions and other events that draw participants from across the country, including California, which is home to one of every nine Americans.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican originally from Munster, shrugged off the economic impact of the California travel ban on Indiana hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues.
“While we will miss the liberal government employees from California visiting the Hoosier State this summer, we choose protections for our K-12 girls over them any day,” Rokita said.
Under the Rokita-backed statute, trans girls who were assigned male at birth are barred from playing on girls athletics teams in kindergarten through 12th grade, and the parents of girls who believe their child was deprived of an athletics opportunity because of a trans girl’s participation are authorized to sue their school for monetary damages.
State Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland, the sponsor of the legislation, said it ensures “a fair and equal opportunity to compete for Hoosier girls.”
“This issue stems from Hoosier parents like me who are concerned about our female athletes, and their opportunities to compete, earn top spots and obtain scholarships. This law is a commonsense approach to protect and preserve the integrity of girls’ sports,” Davis said.
There currently are zero trans girls participating in girls high school sports in Indiana. The new law does not apply to women’s college or professional athletics, nor does it prevent trans boys from playing on boys sports teams.
The governor said that those facts, along with the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) already having strict rules in place to ensure fair competition in school sports, were among the provisions that prompted his veto.
“The presumption of the policy laid out in House Enrolled Act 1041 is that there is an existing problem in K-12 sports in Indiana that requires further state government intervention. It implies that the goals of consistency and fairness in competitive female sports are not currently being met. After thorough review, I find no evidence to support either claim even if I support the overall goal,” Holcomb said.
Statehouse Democrats said it’s unconscionable Republicans would target children for discrimination, using the force of law to tell trans children already uncertain about their place in the world they don’t matter and can’t even play sports with their friends.
“It’s blatantly discriminatory what we’re doing here,” said Senate Democratic Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, during debate on the measure. “Throwing children under the bus to gain support from voters is not what we’re here to do. These are children!”
A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law is pending at the federal court in Indianapolis.
All Northwest Indiana Republican lawmakers supported the measure, except state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, who joined all Region Democrats, except state Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, in opposing it.