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North Dakota Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Ban Trans Students From Playing Sports

On Wednesday, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed a bill that would have banned transgender K–12 students from playing on school-sponsored teams of their identifying gender.

House Bill 1298 was passed by a 69–25 vote in the House and a 27–20 vote in the Senate, according to Adam Willis of The Dickinson Press. A two-thirds vote in both chambers is needed to override a governor's veto.

Burgum said in a statement that there is no evidence that fairness in school sports is threatened under the current legislation.

"North Dakota today has a level playing field and fairness in girls' sports," Burgum said. "We have every confidence that they will continue to ensure a level playing field for the 27,000 students who participate in North Dakota high school sports."

Burgum also said there has not been a single recorded incident of a transgender girl trying to play on a girls' team in the state. The bill stated that public schools could not "knowingly allow an individual of the opposite sex" to join an exclusively boys' or girls' team.

The move comes as various states have passed legislation banning transgender athletes from competing on teams of their identifying gender. Proponents of the North Dakota bill argue that the ban is a needed step to ensure fairness in girls' sports.

Opposition on both sides of the aisle, however, asserts that the bill would have harmful mental health ramifications on transgender and LGBTQ communities throughout the state. Libby Skarin, a campaign director for the ACLU, released a statement praising Burgum's decision to veto the bill.

“House Bill 1298 was never about leveling the playing field for student-athletes," Skarin said. "It was obvious from the beginning that this discriminatory legislation was about creating solutions to problems that don’t exist and, in the process, harming some of the most vulnerable people in our state. We’re thrilled with Gov. Burgum’s decision to veto this bill.”

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