Republican Governors have been all over the map with respect to transgender issues. Some have issued restrictions for transgender athletes while others, in North Dakota, Kansas, and Arkansas have vetoed bills that would protect girls’ sports or prevent children from transitioning.
California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner was praised by many on the right for saying that transgender girls competing in female sports is “unfair.” That is a true statement but it should not be enough to garner the vote of conservatives. As we have seen repeatedly, governors may fold when the issue matters most.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would prohibit biological males from participating in K-12 girls’ sports teams. House Bill 1298 would prevent a public elementary or secondary school from “knowingly” allowing a student of the opposite sex to play on a school-sponsored athletic team “that is exclusively for females or exclusively for males.” The bill includes an exemption for girls who play on boys’ sports teams. Governor Burgum wrote that there is not any evidence showing that girls’ sports are in “immediate danger” of becoming unfair.
In South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem partially vetoed a bill that would have banned biological males from participating in female sports. Noem also limited the restrictions to high school and elementary athletics. She claimed that applying the ban to college sports would lead to lawsuits and the NCAA withdrawing tournaments. Business interest groups have lobbied against these restrictions, arguing that if the NCAA pulled tournaments from South Dakota, it would cost the state millions of dollars and result in job loss. Noem later issued executive orders that would implement weaker restrictions on trans women in girls’ sports.
The most deplorable example of Republican cowardice is when Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas vetoed the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act. It would have banned gender transition surgery and hormone therapy for minors. Hutchinson said, “We want to send a message of tolerance and diversity.” Hutchinson, and many other Republican leaders, care more about appeasing the left than delivering for their voters.
Hutchinson also invoked the principle of “limited government” in his defense of the veto. He believed the bill constituted government overreach. This is an incredibly weak defense. Protecting children is a duty of government. Children cannot consent to hormone therapy and transgender surgery. The ramifications of puberty-suppressing drugs are long-term. According to a report by UCLA, “Whether blocking puberty is the best way to treat gender dysphoria remains far from settled…and it should be considered… a drastic and experimental measure.”
It is not entirely clear whether these governors are caving to business interests, activists, or if they simply do not view the left’s gender ideology as a threat. Whatever the case, conservatives are losing the battle. It is past time for Republican governors to go on offense.
Former Connecticut high school track athlete, Chelsea Mitchell, competed against biological males through most of high school. In a USA Today op-ed, Mitchell wrote “I’ve lost four women’s state championship titles, two all-New England wards, and numerous other spots on the podium to male runners. I was bumped to third place in the 55-meter dash in 2019, behind two male runners.” She explains that the continued losses demoralize female athletes and prevent them from earning scholarships.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that bans biological males from participating in female scholastic sports. The bill does not apply to elementary school students or biological females who want to participate in boys’ sports. The legislation is an amendment to an education bill. It is titled the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.” The law also mandates that K-12 and public college sports teams are designated male, female, or coed.
Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia recently signed into law a similar bill. It bars transgender females from participating in women’s sports teams in public middle schools, high schools, and colleges. The legislation notes that there are “inherent differences between biological males and biological females,” and that “in the context of sports involving competitive skill or contact, biological males and biological females are not in fact similarly situated.”
Republicans should follow the lead of the Governors of Florida and West Virginia. Protecting girls’ sports and children from the irreversible effects of “transgender healthcare” are worthy causes. If conservatives want to make gains in other policy areas, it is important that Republicans do not cede any more ground to the left.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.