BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota's Republican-led Senate on Thursday sustained Gov. Doug Burgum's veto of a bill restricting transgender girls from participating in public elementary and secondary school sports.
Senators voted 28-19 to override the first-term Republican governor, but fell short of the 32 necessary for a two-thirds majority. The vote came after the GOP-led House voted 68-25 to override Burgum earlier Thursday.
The bill last week got a strong 69-25 vote in the House but a narrower 27-20 vote in the Senate.
Burgum argued that the legislation endorsed by the GOP-led Legislature attempts to address a problem that does not exist.
"To date, there has not been a single recorded incident of a transgender girl attempting to play on a North Dakota girls' team," Burgum wrote in his veto message Wednesday.
Burgum said the state "has a level playing field and fairness in girls' sports." The bill, he said, purports that fairness in school sports is in immediate danger.
"There is no evidence to suggest this is true," Burgum wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the legislation unconstitutional and warned it would open the state up to costly litigation.
The ACLU said in a statement that the measure provides "solutions to problems that don't exist and, in the process, harming some of the most vulnerable people in our state."
"Nobody wins when politicians try to meddle in people's lives like this," it said. "Nobody wins when we try to codify discrimination like this."
The measure calls for an optional interim study of the impact the bill would have on student athletic events. The findings would be forwarded to the 2023 Legislature.
Opponents say the measure discriminates against transgender student athletes and would threaten the hosting of collegiate and club sports events in the state and create legal and economic risks.
Supporters say the legislation would ensure fairness in girls sports and support Title IX, a 1972 federal law that protects people from sex-based discrimination in school activities that receive federal money.