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North Dakota Gov. Burgum vetoes transgender sports measure

April 22, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed legislation Wednesday restricting transgender students from participating in public elementary and secondary school sports.

Burgum said in his veto message that the state “has a level playing field and fairness in girls’ sports.” The bill, he said, purports that this long fairness is in immediate danger. There is no evidence to suggest this is true.”

The bill prohibits K-12 schools from “knowingly” allowing a student to join an athletic team exclusively for their opposite gender, but does allow girls to play on boys teams.

“To date there has not been a single recorded incident of a transgender girl attempting to play on a North Dakota girls’ team,” Burgum wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union called legislation unconstitutional and would open the state up to costly litigation.

In a statement, the ACLU said it was “thrilled” with the governor’s decision.

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The measure “was never about leveling the playing field for student athletes. It was obvious from the beginning that this discriminatory legislation was about creating solutions to problems that don’t exist and, in the process, harming some of the most vulnerable people in our state,” the statement said. “Nobody wins when politicians try to meddle in people’s lives like this. Nobody wins when we try to codify discrimination like this.”

The bill received expected support in both GOP-controlled legislative chambers last week, with a strong 69-25 vote in the House but a narrower 27-20 vote in the Senate. It wasn’t clear Wednesday if it could get the two-thirds majority needed for a veto override.

The measure calls for an an optional interim study of the impact the bill would have on student athletic events. The findings would be forwarded to the 2023 Legislature.

Critics say the measure discriminates against transgender student athletes. Opponents also argue legislation would threaten the hosting of collegiate and club sports events in the state and would create legal and economic risks.

Supporters say the legislation would ensure fairness in girls sports and support Title IX, a 1972 federal law that protects people from sex-based discrimination in school activities that receive federal money.