The North Carolina legislature’s Republican supermajority voted to override vetoes from the state’s Democratic governor on a slew of bills Wednesday evening, including a trio of measures that target transgender youth.
The House’s and Senate’s override votes, which passed largely along party lines, mean bills that ban gender-affirming care for minors, restrict how gender identity can be discussed in schools, and prohibit transgender athletes from competing on girls’ sports teams are now law in the state.
“These are the wrong priorities, especially when they should be working nights and weekends if necessary to get a budget passed by the end of the month,” Gov. Roy Cooper said, in part, in a statement that addressed the slate of veto overrides.
When Cooper vetoed the three bills pertaining to LGBTQ youth in early July, he accused GOP lawmakers of “scheming for the next election” by “hurting vulnerable children” and pushing “political culture wars.”
Chants of “Protect Trans Kids” echoed through the chamber after the House veto override vote on House Bill 808.
The legislation bans doctors in the state from providing gender-affirming care to minors, even if there is parental consent. Under the new legislation, medical professionals are prohibited from performing surgical gender transition procedures, prescribing puberty-blocking drugs and providing hormone treatments for those under the age of 18, though there are extremely limited exceptions for certain disorders. If a doctor breaks the law, the bill calls for their medical license to be revoked.
The legislation also creates a 25-year window after former patients turn 18 to file civil action against doctors and their employers for perceived damages related to gender-affirming care. The new restrictions would not apply to any child who began treatment before August 1, if a doctor determines their care to be “medically necessary” and they have parental consent.
Gender-affirming care spans a range of evidence-based treatments and approaches that benefit transgender and nonbinary people. The types of care vary by the age and goals of the recipient and are considered the standard of care by many mainstream medical associations.
“Just stop it. You can stop it right now,” state Rep. John Autry said as he asked the House to sustain the governor’s veto. The Mecklenburg County Democrat has spoken throughout the session about his granddaughter, who is transgender.
“When we have an entire group of people who are eight times more likely to commit suicide than their peers, we have a responsibility to make sure those individuals have access to all the health care they need,” said state Rep. Sarah Crawford, a Democrat from Wake County, speaking in opposition to the veto override.
Meanwhile, one of the bill’s sponsors, Republican state Sen. Joyce Krawiec, said in a statement, “We need to take a cautious approach and limit access to these life-altering medical procedures, and today’s vote to override Gov. Cooper’s veto does just that.”
HB 574 bans transgender girls and women from competing on middle school, high school and college sports teams that align with their gender identity. The bill states that a “student’s sex shall be recognized based solely on the student’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth,” and would require sports teams to be designated as for males, men or boys; females, women or girls; or coed or mixed.
The bill specifies that “students of the male sex” cannot play on girls’ sports teams but does not address transgender boys playing on boys’ teams.
“This is an unwarranted attack on transgender youth, regardless of if that is the intent … the effect of this bill will make these already vulnerable young people feel more different than they already do,” said state Sen. Julie Mayfield, an Asheville Democrat.
Supporters of the bill cheered in the House gallery after the veto override vote.
“Girls deserve to compete on a level playing field. Allowing males to compete in girls’ sports destroys fair competition and women’s athletic opportunities,” said NC Values Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald in a statement after the vote. “Bodies play sports, not identities, and this bill ensures North Carolina girls and women won’t be benched in their own sports and can train confidently knowing they have a safe and level playing field.”
One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican state Sen. Vickie Sawyer, said in a statement, “Our daughters should not be forced to compete against biological men and overriding Gov. Cooper’s veto of this legislation ensures our daughters do not have to worry about that.”
SB 49, dubbed the “Parents Bill of Rights,” requires that parents be notified “prior to any changes in the name or pronoun used for a student in school records or by school personnel,” as well as bans instruction on “gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality” in kindergarten through fourth grade.
Republican state Sen. Amy Galey, a sponsor of the bill, argued in a statement that the measure “increases accessibility to what’s being taught in our schools, notifies parents of the well-being of their children, and keeps school curriculum focused on core subjects.”
State Rep. Laura Budd a Mecklenburg County Democrat, called the bill “yet another unfunded mandate” for public schools, noting it does not place the same requirements on private and charter schools.
The Human Rights Campaign, in a statement addressing the three bills, said that “once again, the North Carolina General Assembly has prioritized anti-transgender discrimination over the well-being of North Carolina.”
“Governor Cooper did the right thing by vetoing these hateful bills designed to rile up hate against LGBTQ+ people, but legislators are sending a clear message that North Carolina is not a safe place for us. We will not stop fighting these discriminatory measures,” the statement continued.
Allison Scott, director of impact and innovation at the Campaign for Southern Equality, called the override “an all-out attack on queer and transgender youth in North Carolina.”
“I also know that no law can stop the transgender community from charting our paths to thriving and living authentically – our community will make sure of that,” she said.
Veto overrides have become an increasingly common occurrence in North Carolina this session. Republicans gained a veto-proof supermajority earlier this year when Rep. Tricia Cotham switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, just months after being elected in a blue district in Mecklenburg County.
This story has been updated with additional details.