It's not every day that a politician has the chance to be a hero in one of the most high-profile debates in the country. And it's also not every day that a leader turns the chance down. This week, it happened twice. To the shock of Indiana and Utah voters, their governors had the opportunity to make the biggest statement on girls' sports since the Lia Thomas swimming scandal erupted last weekend. Both of them refused.
In most people's minds, the timing was a political gift. Both Eric Holcomb (R-Ind.) and Spencer Cox (R-Utah) had the ability to harness Americans' outrage and do something about a consensus crisis in real time. And, thanks to the 11 states who went before them, momentum was on their side long before a biological man stole the NCAA title.
In Indiana, there was never any doubt that Holcomb would do the right thing, since he'd already said, "I agree, adamantly, that boys should be playing boys' sports and girls should be playing girls' sports..." When state Rep. Michelle Davis (R), who authored Indiana's bill, got the call Monday night that Holcomb had vetoed, she was "completely shocked." "The last thing I had heard from Governor Holcomb was an interview where he had said 'boys should play with boys and girls should play with girls,' Davis explained on "Washington Watch." When she spoke to House Speaker Todd Huston (R), he couldn't believe it either. "He was just as shocked as I was," she shook her head.
This legislation, Davis explained, came from months of listening to constituents and rallying around the integrity of women's sports. The idea that anyone could oppose that -- especially after what the world witnessed last weekend -- is almost incomprehensible. "We had lots of support from the very beginning," she insisted. Now, in the aftermath of Holcomb's career-defining move, she says Republicans are united in righting this wrong and overriding the veto at their first opportunity: May 24.
Meanwhile, everyone from Indiana's U.S. senators to the state's legal experts are blasting the governor's cowardice. "It just doesn't make sense," Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) told NRO. "I've heard directly from state legislators who supported the bill that the governor signaled that he would sign it." Hoosier Senator Mike Braun (R) shamed Holcomb for refusing to protect Indiana's daughters. "Girls' sports should be for girls and allowing biological males to compete with them robs female athletes of a chance to compete and win." The backlash continued at state Attorney General Todd Rokita's (R) office, where he promised to "stand by the law" and "vigorously defend it in court if and hopefully when the General Assembly overrides the veto."
But even the fierce response to Holcomb's veto didn't dissuade Utah's Cox, who's been openly opposed to protecting girls' sports from the beginning. In a joint statement Tuesday, state House Speaker Brad Wilson (R) and state Senate President Stuart Adams announced within hours of his veto that they would call a special session to respond as soon as Friday. "Governor Cox made his intention to veto the bill clear from the day it was passed, so his action today was expected... Ultimately, the legislature recognizes the value of girls' athletics and our members want to ensure that girls have the level playing field to compete that was created under Title IX... Members of the legislature have worked tirelessly for more than a year to find the best way to approach a complex issue, and I anticipate that we will have sufficient votes to override this veto... Doing nothing is taking a backward step for women."
What continues to boggle most conservatives' minds is that these bills are an easy lift. They don't require the political courage of an Idaho, who enacted one first. Or an Iowa, who went second. That trail is blazed. Even South Dakota's governor Kristi Noem came back this year to sign a women's sports bill after vetoing one last year. Why? These are timely, popular, mainstream protections now -- and the demand for them, after last weekend's NCAA disgrace, has never been greater. If these governors don't have the nerve to stand up for something as innocuous as girls' sports, what on earth will they stand up for?
These sellouts should never regain voters' trust, but hopefully their Republican peers have learned a very valuable lesson. If you want to stay in America's good graces, get on the right side of this issue. Take a page from Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), who Tuesday announced that he's signing a proclamation to name second-place NCAA finisher Emma Weyant as the "best female swimmer" in the 500-yard freestyle.
"To compete at that level is very, very difficult. You don't just roll out of bed and do it. That takes grit. That takes determination... She had the fastest time of any woman in college athletics. Now the NCAA is basically taking efforts to destroy women's athletics. They're trying to undermine the integrity of the competition, crowning somebody else the women's champion, and we think that's wrong," he argued.
That's the kind of pushback we need from elected officials all across this country. America's daughters deserve fighters and leaders. In Cox and Holcomb, they have neither.