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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers vetoes transgender athlete ban for state's schools

By Chris Benson
On Tuesday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (pictured in Milwaukee in December) said no to a bill that would have banned transgender student athlete participation based on their chosen gender. File Photo by Tannen Maury/UPI
1 of 2 | On Tuesday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (pictured in Milwaukee in December) said no to a bill that would have banned transgender student athlete participation based on their chosen gender. File Photo by Tannen Maury/UPI | License Photo

April 2 (UPI) -- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have banned transgender young people from participating in student sport activities that align with their chosen gender identity and not based on sex assigned at birth.

"I believe this bill fails to comport with our Wisconsin values. We expect our kids to treat each other with kindness, respect, empathy and compassion, and we should be able to expect adults to lead by example," Ever said in his veto message.

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The legislation rejected by the two-term Democratic governor -- a former teacher, principal and school superintendent -- would have forced those who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming to play on the sports teams consistent with their gender assigned at birth.

"This type of legislation, and the harmful rhetoric beget by pursuing it, harms LGBTQ Wisconsinites' and kids' mental health, emboldens anti-LGBTQ harassment, bullying, and violence, and threatens the safety and dignity of LGBTQ Wisconsinites, especially our LGBTQ kids," the governor wrote in his veto decision.

Assembly Bill 37 -- which Evers already had promised to veto -- passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature in a 63-35 party-line vote in October, followed by the state's Senate approval weeks ago in a 21-11 vote.

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On social media, Evers' wrote, "LGBTQ kids deserve our love and respect and support just like any other kids" along with a video of him vetoing the bill.

At least 23 states since 2020 have so far passed legislation that restricts transgender athlete participation in school sports. Evers had declared it "Transgender Visibility Day" in Wisconsin two days prior.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said at the time when the bill was introduced that it was "the right thing to do for Wisconsin."

According to GLAAD, 2023 was on pace to be "a record-setting year for state legislation targeting LGBTQ adults and youth." The group says 2021-2022 were also record-setting years for anti-LGBTQ legislation.

A Wisconsin legislator and co-chair of the Transgender Parent and Non-Binary Advocacy Caucus applauded the governor's decision.

"This harmful proposal targeted trans and non-binary students and would have prevented them from participating in sports teams that align with their gender identity," state Rep. Melissa Ratcliff, D-Cottage Grove, said.

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"It is a sad day when discrimination and prejudice receive the overwhelming support of Republicans in the State Legislature," Ratcliff said.

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