Wyoming governor allows trans athlete ban to become law despite calling it “draconian” and “discriminatory”

Wyoming Republican Gov. Mark Gordon allowed a bill that bans trans women and girls from competing on sports teams concurrent with their gender identities to become law on Friday — despite calling the legislation “draconian” and “discriminatory,” and ultimately refusing to sign it. The law will take effect on July 1.

“While I support and agree with the overall goal of fairness in competitive female sports, I am concerned that the ban included in this legislation is overly draconian, is discriminatory without attention to individual circumstances or mitigating factors, and pays little attention to fundamental principles of equality,” Gordon wrote in a letter to Wyoming Secretary of State Chuck Gray shortly before he refused to veto the bill.

The ACLU of Wyoming was quick to condemn the passage of the bill, with Antonio Serrano, ACLU Wyoming’s advocacy director, writing on Twitter, “Nobody wins when politicians meddle in people’s lives like this. Nobody wins when we codify discrimination. We must keep fighting.”

“Senate File 133 is not about leveling the playing field for student athletes. It’s about erasing and excluding trans people from participation in all aspects of public life,” Serrano added in a statement

The bill bans trans women and girls in grades 7 through 12 from competing on sports teams concurrent with their gender identities, with some exceptions: if the spot of a trans athlete does not take away a spot from one of their cisgender counterparts, or if the team is co-ed. Presumably, students can also appeal to a “school activity eligibility commission,” which will make a decision based on “physical characteristics for the age and gender group in a given gender‑designated interscholastic activity including height, weight” and more, according to the text.

In his letter, the governor said that “by enacting an outright ban on transgender individuals participating in sports teams, I believe Wyoming sends a harmful message that these individuals and their families do not deserve the same opportunities as others.” That message, Gordon said, can have a “devastating impact on the mental health and well-being” of trans people, who he says are already subject to “significant discrimination and marginalization.” 

Gordon also addressed concerns around the taxpayer cost of potential lawsuits pertaining to the enactment of the new law.

Human Rights Campaign also condemned the bill, writing on Twitter, “It’s abysmal that our elected officials continue to attack and harm transgender kids for political gain.”

Athlete Ally, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity in athletics, also released a statement against the new law.

“We are devastated to see Wyoming become the 19th state to ban transgender kids from playing the sport they love,” said Anne Lieberman, the organization’s director of policy and programs.  “We are witnessing a domino effect of states across the country attacking the fundamental rights of transgender youth to be who they are in all parts of their life, including sports. Transgender youth in Wyoming – and everywhere – deserve love and compassion, and to experience the lifesaving power of sports.”

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