Indiana governor scraps public handgun license, vetoes sports ban for transgender girls

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The governor of Indiana on Monday vetoed a bill banning transgender women from participating in girls’ school sports while signing another eliminating the state’s licensing requirement for carry handguns in public.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decisions come after both measures faced intense opposition before being approved by the GOP-dominated legislature that passed what became a pair of conservative causes across the country.

The governor stayed on the sidelines as lawmakers debated the two issues and made his decisions just before his Tuesday deadline for action.

Opponents of the transgender sports bill have argued it is a bigoted response to a problem that doesn’t exist, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana saying it plans a legal action against what she called “hate legislation”.

The bill’s Republican sponsors said it was necessary to protect the integrity of women’s sports and opportunities for girls to earn college athletic scholarships, but did not highlight any cases in the state. where girls were outclassed by transgender athletes.

Holcomb signaled his support for the bill last month, but said in his veto letter that the legislation “fails” to provide a consistent statewide policy for what he called ” equity in K-12 sports”.

Holcomb also pointed to the Indiana High School Athletic Association, which has a policy covering transgender students wishing to play sports that match their gender identity and said no transgender girl has finalized an application to play on a team. some girls.

“The presumption of the policy set forth in HEA 1041 is that there is an existing problem in K-12 sports in Indiana that requires further intervention by the state government,” Holcomb said in his letter. “This implies that the goals of consistency and fairness in women’s competitive sports are currently not being achieved. Upon careful examination, I find no evidence to support either assertion, even if I support the effort as a whole.

Indiana lawmakers can override the governor’s veto with simple majorities in both the House and Senate. A priority veto vote could take place as early as May 24, which legislative leaders have scheduled as a one-day tentative meeting.

Indiana law would prohibit K-12 students who were born male but identify as female from participating in a sport or sports team designated for women or girls. But that wouldn’t stop students who identify as transgender women or men from playing on men’s sports teams.

Eleven other Republican-led states have passed such laws that political observers describe as a classic ‘corner issue’ to motivate conservative supporters after the governors of Iowa and South Dakota signed their bans in recent weeks. .

Holcomb’s veto comes seven years after Indiana faced a national outcry over a religious objections law signed by the then government. Mike Pence, who opponents supported, could be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians. The Republican-dominated legislature moved quickly through revisions blocking its use as a legal defense for refusing to provide services and blocking the law from overriding local ordinances with LGBT protections.

Democrats have argued that Republican lawmakers are following a nationwide conservative “culture war” with the banning of sports for transgender girls.

“Signing Bill 1041 would have put our children’s lives at risk,” said Democratic Party Chairman Mike Schmuhl. “However, this unnecessary debate has set the tone for kids that being transgender means something is wrong with them.”

In signing the repeal of the handgun license requirement, Holcomb went against his state police superintendent’s vocal opposition to further relaxation of the state’s lenient gun laws. fire arms.

The repeal of the license, called “constitutional porting” by gun rights proponents in reference to the Second Amendment, has been criticized by major law enforcement groups who have argued that eliminating the system of permits would endanger officers by depriving them of a screening tool to quickly identify dangerous people who should not have weapons.

At least 21 other states already allow residents to carry handguns without a license — and Ohio’s Republican governor signed a similar bill into law last week.

Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter joined leaders from the Fraternal Order of State Police, Association of Police Chiefs and Association of county prosecutors to denounce the change.

Carter, dressed in his state police uniform, stood in the back of the Senate chamber as the bill was debated. He said after the vote that approving the measure “doesn’t support law enforcement – period.”

Holcomb said in a statement that the licensing repeal bill “entrusts Hoosiers who can legally carry a handgun to do so responsibly in our state.”

“It is important to note that if a person is prohibited under federal or state law from owning a firearm before this law takes effect, that person will still be prohibited,” Holcomb said.

The firearms law, which will come into force on July 1, will allow anyone aged 18 or over to carry a handgun in public, except for reasons such as a felony conviction, facing a court restraining order or have a dangerous mental illness. Proponents argue that the permit requirement undermines Second Amendment protections by requiring law-abiding citizens to submit to police fingerprinting and background checks.

Carter, the former Republican-elect sheriff of Hamilton County, central Indiana, who was first named superintendent of state police by Pence in 2013, said in a statement that he ” would work with law enforcement officials across our state to make necessary changes to gun enforcement as well as identify the best way to identify individuals who are not authorized to carry a firearm within the meaning of Indiana law.

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