North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum Vetos Bill That Would Have Banned Transgender Athletes From Girls' Sports Teams

Citing the fact that a transgender athlete has never attempted to join a girls’ sports in North Dakota, GOP Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed legislation that would have prevented biological males from attempting to join and play on K-12 girls’ sports teams in public schools. In announcing his decision to veto the bill, Burgum said:


“North Dakota has fairness in girls’ and boys’ sports in large part because of the caring and thoughtful leadership of the North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) Board and its members,” Burgum said. “We have every confidence they will continue to ensure a level playing field for the more than 27,000 students who participate in North Dakota high school sports.”

Burgum also said “to date there has not been a single recorded incident of a transgender girl attempting to play on a North Dakota girls’ team. Further, the NDHSAA already has regulations in place for participation in sex-separated interscholastic contests by transgender students.”

While Burgum’s veto could be overridden by a two-thirds vote of each house of the North Dakota legislature, only the House passed the bill by a margin that would override the veto, while the Senate did not.

As the Bismarck Tribune reported, the North Dakota High School Activities Association opposed the bill because it already has a policy in place statewide covering the issue of transgender athlete participation.

But that policy does allow for biological males to compete on girls’ sports teams after one calendar year of documented testosterone-suppression treatment.


The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, Tri-State Transgender, the state Democratic-NPL Party, and the American Civil Liberties Union all had urged Burgum to veto the bill, calling it discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The decision by Burnum to veto legislation passed overwhelmingly by his own party, and opposed almost exclusively by interest groups aligned with the Democrat Party — they won’t support Burgum’s re-election because of this — once again raises questions about what these GOP Governors are being advised by their staff with respect to the anticipated fall-out of these bills.  Burgum’s veto follows only two weeks after Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas vetoed legislation that would have banned some medical treatments for transitioning of transgender minors, only to have his veto overridden and his base of support among Arkansas Republicans collapse.

As reported by Axios last month, there have been over 60 bills introduced in 25 states dealing with the subject of transgender children.  Much of the impetus for this was the election of Joe Biden and the anticipated change in policy by the federal government on supporting the inclusion of biological males in girls’ and women’s sports at all levels.

This culture war seems to be a winning issue for Republicans, at least in the places where they’re fighting it most aggressively, says Dan Cox, the director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life.

  • “On the Democratic side, this is not an issue that really excites the base,” he told Axios. “But on the right, I think these issues are really, really salient, so it tends to fire up folks disproportionately on the right than the left.”
  • “A lot of this stuff is being framed as dangerous for children. That harkens back to the gay rights movement,” he said. “And that’s a pretty effective way to get people who are sort of more moderate and middle of the road off and active on this issue. It’s not random that these are the issues that are being brought up.”

The North Dakota House must vote on the override first, and if that vote is successful, that will force a vote in the North Dakota Senate.


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