Louisiana Legislature 2 Votes Short in Effort to Overturn Transgender Sports Ban Veto

An effort in Louisiana to overturn Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards' veto of a law banning transgender athletes from school sports failed Wednesday by two votes, a major loss for Republic-led efforts to enforce the law in an unprecedented veto session that has so far been without overridden bill rejections.

The Republican-majority Senate narrowly voted to override the veto, but the House failed to gain the two votes it needed to reach the two-thirds majority required to bypass the governor.

Democrats were unswayed by Republican arguments, leaving them short of the supermajority vote that would have made it the first time in three decades that Louisiana has usurped a gubernatorial veto.

"The last thing you want to do is to lose those major events in exchange for a bill that doesn't change anything on the ground in Louisiana. It just isn't happening," Edwards said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, continue below.

Louisiana state capitol
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - APRIL 17: A general view of the Louisiana State Capitol prior to a rally against Louisiana's stay-at-home order and economic shutdown on April 17, 2020 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Governor John Bell Edwards has said Louisiana’s high rate of infections and deaths does not position the state to quickly open back up. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Edwards learned of the failure while on the air for his monthly radio show. He said the veto override would have risked making Louisiana lose major sporting events or conventions for a problem that does not exist.

The Republicans' failure came in an unprecedented veto session, the first time under the nearly 50-year-old constitution that lawmakers came back to the Louisiana Capitol to consider enacting bills a governor had rejected. The prior two veto overrides in the 1990s happened in a regular session when lawmakers already were in the building.

Republican-led efforts to reverse Edwards' spurning of other measures — including a bill to loosen the rules for carrying concealed handguns in Louisiana — also failed to gain enough support for passage.

The transgender sports ban was a driving force behind the historic veto session, after winning bipartisan veto-proof backing in the regular session. Republican legislators said they heard an overwhelming outcry from Louisiana residents who wanted a law prohibiting transgender athletes from competing on school sports teams of their identified gender.

The House GOP's inability to cobble together the needed votes came two days after Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder told reporters he was "comfortable 100%" that his chamber had the support needed for the override.

But the House vote Wednesday was 68-30. It needed 70 votes to pass. The Senate on Tuesday voted 26-12 to override the bill rejection, the bare minimum needed for the override. Those votes were fewer than the support the bill had when it originally passed, but Edwards put a strong effort behind sustaining his vetoes.

Supporters described the ban sponsored by Franklinton Sen. Beth Mizell, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, as protecting girls across K-12 schools and colleges from unfair competition, and the bill was called the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act." They said transgender athletes have an automatic, built-in advantage in competitions against other females.

The legislation is similar to bans passed by Republican-led legislatures in several states, such as Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida.

Opponents said the measure enshrines discrimination into state law.

Edwards, the Deep South's only Democratic governor, said the legislation will make life more difficult for vulnerable children with higher rates of suicide, and he noted that bill backers could not point to a single example of a Louisiana-specific problem. He said passage of the law would threaten Louisiana's ability to attract big events, a point argued by business organization leaders from Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

"Discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana," Edwards said in his veto announcement.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association already has enacted the equivalent of a prohibition on transgender athletes participating on high school sports teams.

Louisiana trans ban
House Speaker Clay Schexnayder waits to hear results of votes in the Senate Chambers during a veto session in Baton Rouge, La., Tuesday, July 20, 2021. Louisiana state senators have narrowly voted to overturn Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' rejection of a bill prohibiting transgender students from participating in school sports. The vote came Tuesday on the opening day of the first veto session under the state's nearly 50-year-old constitution. Gerald Herbert/AP Photo