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Kansas kicks off push to define “female,” as red states seek to protect same-sex spaces

This year, red state lawmakers are determined to do what Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson could not: provide a definition of the word “woman.”

The Kansas Senate on Thursday became the first house to pass the Women’s Rights Bill, a measure that defines “woman” and “man” in state law. The distinction is central to the push to preserve single-sex areas such as public restrooms, school sports, prisons and shelters.

“What it does is simply codify the definition of sex into the law,” Republican Senator Renee Erickson told the Washington Times.

The measure is opposed by transgender rights advocates, although Ms Erickson stressed it “doesn’t address gender identity”.

“It simply says that in existing statute or law, where there is a definition of sex, it means biological male and female as determined at birth. This is very factual, it is very objective,” she said.

Under the bill, a person’s biological sex is determined at birth. “Female” is defined as someone “whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova” and “male” refers to those “whose biological reproductive system is developed to fertilize the ova of a female”.

Similar measures were introduced this year in Oklahoma, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. In South Carolina, lawmakers are considering a joint resolution that would amend the state constitution to define sex as biological sex at birth.

Figuring out what “woman” means became a political hot potato last year after Judge Jackson said at his confirmation hearing he couldn’t provide a definition. A few months later, conservative pundit Matt Walsh released his documentary “What Is a Woman?” mocking the gender identity movement.

Ms. Erickson called Senate Bill 180 “a common sense approach to this issue,” but Kansas Democrats clearly disagree.

The legislation passed by a 26-10 party vote with no Democratic backing. Senate Democrats criticized the measure as “another bill against Transkansanians.” They noted that lawmakers have also advanced measures banning gender transition procedures for minors and biological males from girls’ school sports.

“This is part of a national push to put biologically essentialist language into the statute for lawmakers to do [a] basis for banning trans people from public spaces,” Kansas Senate Democrats said in a statement on Twitter.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the bill “codifies into law the right to exclude transgender people based on outdated and inaccurate definitions of sex and family.”

Kansas State Senator Pat Pettey, a Democrat, objected to naming the measure as the Women’s Rights Bill.

“As we heard in committee, it might be better if we were talking about things that would help women’s rights, namely pay equity, access to childcare and the consideration that our human rights are balanced between men and women,” he told the Senate floor. “I think this is shoddy legislation, unnecessary and does nothing to talk about women’s rights.”

In case you were concerned #ksleg politicians came up with their own, fear not: This is part of a national push to insert biologically essentialist language into the statute so that lawmakers have the basis to ban trans people from public spaces.

— Kansas Senate Democrats (@kssenatedems) February 22, 2023

The Women’s Rights Bill was conceived last year as model legislation by two groups at opposite ends of the political spectrum: the conservative voice of independent women and the left-leaning Women’s Liberation Front.

They may agree on little else, but both are alarmed by the growing campaign to allow biological males into sex-segregated female spaces based on gender identity in the name of transgender rights.

Jennifer C. Braceras, director of the Independent Women’s Law Center, the legal advocacy arm of the Independent Women’s Forum and Independent Women’s Voice, said the bill does not change the law but rather “stops it.”

“It codifies the current constitutional jurisprudence and the intermediate audit standard that we have all relied on to protect women’s rights, but also to recognize that there are certain situations where men and women can be separated without violating the constitution,” she stated. she said. “Bathrooms, prisons, sports, domestic violence shelters, etc.”

At the same time, the bill does not prevent lawmakers from passing anti-discrimination measures that protect people who identify as of the opposite sex in areas such as employment.

“If Kansas wanted to pass legislation to protect trans-identified people from workplace discrimination, for example, Kansas could do it,” Ms. Braceras said. “The Women’s Rights Bill, by clarifying the definition of sex in existing law, prevents unelected judges or administrative bureaucrats from changing the meaning of words without the consent of the governed.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said the bill was “essentially attempting to remove trans people from athletics, restrooms, locker rooms, domestic violence shelters and other necessary spaces,” but Ms Erickson argued it was appropriate. In many cases.

“There are legitimate reasons to distinguish between the sexes with respect to prisons, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers and other areas where safety and privacy are needed,” she said. “This bill creates no new rights or rights. It simply codifies the definition of sex as biological male and female in existing statutes and laws.

The bill would clear the Republican-controlled House but not the desk of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat. The governor, who was re-elected in November, previously vetoed two bills that would have banned male competitors who identify as women from women’s sports.

“We have a Democratic governor and we fully expect him to veto this bill, which just demonstrates his extreme position on this,” Ms. Erickson said. “It doesn’t reflect the majority of people in Kansas. People want this. It’s common sense. It’s the right thing to do.”

Supporters of the legislation are hoping Ms Kelly will listen to voters. The Independent Women’s Forum said a poll commissioned by the group found 80 percent of Kansas respondents “think it’s important that Kansas pass a law to define terms based on sex,” including “man,” “woman”, “female” and “male.”

The poll also found that 86 percent of Kansas respondents “believe that single-sex spaces should be preserved where safety or fairness requires it.”

“Democrats should be able to support this,” Ms. Braceras said. “I don’t know if the Democratic governor will veto it or not. It shouldn’t, it’s reality. If he vetoes it, he’s really going to tell you something about how far from mainstream it is. This shouldn’t be controversial.

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