North Dakota’s Republican Gov. Doug Burgum on Tuesday evening signed two transgender athlete bans into law, effectively prohibiting transgender girls and women from joining female sports teams in K-12 and college.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate passed the bills with veto-proof majorities this year. If the governor had vetoed the bills or refused to sign them, the bills likely would’ve still become law.
Burgum said in a statement that over the past two years, with more than 27,000 students participating in North Dakota high school sports, “there still has not been a single recorded incident of a transgender girl playing or entering the process to even ask to play on a North Dakota girls’ team.”
Nevertheless, the Legislature has now “resoundingly determined” that restrictions beyond the current rules for girls’ sports should be codified in state law, he said.
Burgum added: “Concerns raised last session about such policies jeopardizing the ability to host regional and national collegiate tournaments have not materialized in the roughly 20 states that have passed similar legislation.”
At least 19 other states have imposed restrictions on transgender athletes. And Republican lawmakers across the U.S. have drafted hundreds of laws this year to push back on LGBTQ+ freedoms, especially targeting transgender people’s everyday lives — including sports, health care, bathrooms, workplaces and schools.
The Biden administration this month proposed a rule, which still faces a lengthy approval process, to forbid outright bans on transgender athletes.
In 2021, Burgum vetoed a nearly identical bill that would have banned transgender girls from playing on girls’ teams in public schools. Lawmakers didn’t have enough votes that year to override the veto.
This year, lawmakers wrote new legislation to replicate and expand that bill — including at the college level.
Republican Sen. Janne Myrdal, of Edinburg, supported the bills and argued that trans participation in sports could take away scholarship opportunities from female athletes who are cisgender, meaning their gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
Democratic Sen. Ryan Braunberger, of Fargo, spoke against the bills on the Senate floor last week. He said in an interview with The Associated Press that this is scary time for his friends and family who are transgender.
“I have talked to several of my family members that don’t want to leave North Dakota because it is their state, and it is their home. But they’re feeling like they have to now. They don’t feel like it’s safe for them,” he said Tuesday after the governor signed the bills.
Trisha Ahmed is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Trisha Ahmed on Twitter: @TrishaAhmed15.