North Carolina Legislature overrides vetoes of bills targeting transgender health care, athletes

The North Carolina Legislature voted Wednesday to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto against three bills that would ban gender-affirming health care for transgender minors, prevent transgender women and girls from competing on female sports teams and limit classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Cooper vetoed all three bills last month, writing in the veto message that “Republicans are serving up a triple threat of political culture wars.”

House Bill 808, the gender-affirming health care ban, bars medical professionals in North Carolina from administering puberty blockers, hormones and surgeries to transgender minors. Those who began treatment prior to Aug. 1 may continue receiving care with their parents’ consent.

The new law, which takes effect immediately, also blocks state funds from being used to support government health plans that offer “surgical gender transition procedures, puberty-blocking drugs, or cross-sex hormones to a minor.”

The North Carolina House — where Republicans secured a veto-proof majority in April after state Rep. Tricia Cotham (R) switched political parties — voted 74-45 Wednesday to override Cooper’s veto of the bill. Later in the evening, the Senate voted 27-18 to do the same, making North Carolina the 22nd state to pass a law banning gender-affirming health care for transgender young people, and the 19th to do so this year.

State lawmakers also voted Wednesday to override Cooper’s veto of House Bill 574, which bars transgender women and girls from middle school through college from competing on female sports teams.

Republicans said Wednesday that the bill is needed to maintain the integrity of women’s sports, while Democrats in both chambers criticized the legislation as “targeted abuse” toward transgender young people.

“This is just a mean-spirited bill,” state Democratic Rep. Marcia Morey, a former Olympic swimmer, said Wednesday on the House floor. “We’re not talking about world-class athletes.”

Morey, who represented the U.S. in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, noted that the government did not intervene when she competed against women using performance-enhancing drugs.

“The government didn’t step in, the Olympic Committee did. It was the right way to do it,” Morey said. “Let the governing sports bodies pass their regulations. They’re much more attuned to fairness in sports than politicians are.”

The Legislature also voted Wednesday to override Cooper’s veto of a third bill, known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, to prohibit kindergarten through fourth grade teachers from engaging in classroom instruction about gender identity or sexuality.

Prior to this year, North Carolina had largely refrained from advancing anti-LGBTQ policies after its 2016 “bathroom bill,” which barred transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity, sparked a nationwide protest that threatened to cost the state upward of $3.7 billion in lost business.

The law, commonly referred to as House Bill 2, was partially eliminated after Cooper took office in 2017. A lawsuit challenging the measure’s restrictions on transgender bathroom access was settled in federal court in 2019.

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