INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of activists filled the Indiana Statehouse to support transgender youth Tuesday as Indiana lawmakers voted to override the governor’s veto to ban transgender girls in Indiana from participating in girls sports.

House Bill 1041, authored by local Republican state Rep. Michelle Davis, of Whiteland, originally passed by both chambers of the Indiana legislature in March. But it was vetoed by Gov. Eric Holcomb later that month. Holcomb had argued the bill didn’t provide a consistent policy of fairness in scholastic sports, and he also said he found no evidence of the problem the legislation intended to address.

Republican lawmakers quickly vowed to vote to override the governor’s veto to make the law go into effect anyway, and a vote was held Tuesday during the scheduled technical corrections day. The veto override sailed through the Indiana House of Representatives by a largely party-line vote of 67-28 and the Indiana Senate soon after by a vote of 32-15. The law will now take effect July 1.

But prior to the vote in the afternoon, hundreds protesters against the legislation gathered in the morning outside for sports and outdoor activities before filling the inside of the Statehouse for a rally.

A group of people play four square outside the Indiana Statehouse Tuesday as they prepare to protest House Bill 1041 Tuesday, a bill barring transgender females from participating in female sports. Both houses of legislature voted to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of the bill. ANDY BELL-BALTACI | DAILY JOURNAL

Lafayette-native Ben Davis, the father of a transgender girl, was one of many who made their way to the Statehouse to protest the veto override vote. He agrees with Holcomb’s veto and said the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) already has a policy in place covering transgender girls who wanted to participate in girls sports.

That policy requires transgender students to establish through documentation that they have demonstrated a consistent gender identity for at least one year, and that they have initiated testosterone therapy and completed counselling. Holcomb had mentioned this policy and commended the IHSAA in his veto letter to lawmakers in March.

Ben Davis said HB 1041 is a “solution looking for a problem” and a new law is not necessary.

“Since having (my daughter) come out to us last year, the realization of what’s going on in our state and other states, vilifying transgender youth is appalling to me and directly affects my family,” Ben Davis said. “My daughter is in high school right now, and although she’s not in sports, the impact this kind of law would have on her and other transgender kids would be to show that they are not welcome, that they are ‘other.’”

Michelle Davis, while speaking on the House floor, upheld that the purpose of the legislation is to preserve fair competition for female athletes.

“As a former Division I athlete, I know female athletes deserve fair competition in girls sports now and in the future,” Davis said. “This bill ensures just that. This bill will prevent biological males from participating in sports designated for women or girls.”

Michelle Davis did not respond to an interview request with the Daily Journal following the veto override vote.

In the Senate, debate continued for over an hour after the House vote. State Sen. Stacey Donato, R-Logansport, signaled her support of the bill. Although the IHSAA has reported one reported case of a transgender athlete seeking a waiver, she said the law is about protecting competition, whether it’s “one or 100 cases.”

“This bill is simply protecting fair competition in girls sports,” Donato said. “All students will be able to play sports, but they will just have to compete with peers of the same biological sex.”

State Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, however, said the bill would cause harm to transgender students.

“Gas prices continue to climb, Indiana wages have fallen behind the rest of the nation and school is ending in my community and many of yours and parents are struggling to find child care, but we’re completely ignoring these issues and coming together to override this veto,” Yoder said. “We are spending our time making children feel bad about themselves, doing real damage to their mental health. We’re starting down a path of banning their entire existence.”

Tommy Naughton, a transgender student who recently completed seventh grade at a Center for Inquiry school in Indianapolis, said he believes this law would lead to an increase in suicide attempts among transgender youth. A 2020 study by the National Library of Medicine found 82% of transgender individuals have considered suicide while 40% have attempted suicide.

“It’s important for kids, especially trans kids, to have a community where they can feel safe and sports teams can be one of those spaces. Teams can help people grow and learn. I came out to the protest today because I am a trans person and I think it’s really important to fight for things you believe in,” Naughton said.

L-R: Westfield residents Ryan Fields and Michael Goode Hula-hoop Tuesday as they prepare to protest House Bill 1041 Tuesday, a bill barring transgender females from participating in female sports. Both houses of legislature voted to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of the bill. ANDY BELL-BALTACI | DAILY JOURNAL

Cynthia Wirth, a Democratic candidate running against U.S. Rep. Greg Pence in Indiana’s 6th Congressional District, was in attendance at the Statehouse protests. She said the the bill will lead to more discrimination against transgender youth.

“Every kid should be able to play, period. They should be able to play with the gender they identify with, as simple as that,” Wirth said. “I think if you follow the science, there’s no rationale for the bill and I’m a scientist. I’m a biologist and anthropologist. I taught high school science from 2011 to 2018 in Columbus. Some of the arguments people made for gender being a function of biology and chromosomes is just wrong. I think this bill opens the door to more discrimination.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, minutes after the veto override, filed a lawsuit Tuesday afternoon challenging HB 1041. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against the Indianapolis Public Schools district, according to a news release from the ACLU. The suit is on behalf of A.M., a 10 -year-old transgender girl who plays on her school’s all-girls softball team. The ACLU claims the new law would deny A.M. the right to rejoin her team because she is a transgender girl.