Lawmakers on Thursday approved a series of bills to limit transgender rights in Kansas, joining a national trend as critics argue the legislative barrage is an attack on the LGBT community.
After three years of failure, the Kansas House passed the ban on transgender athletes with a veto-proof majority, with two GOP members opposing the bill and one Democrat supporting it.
The Kansas Senate also passed both bills limiting child gender-affirming assistance and a so-called “women’s bill of rights” that prevents state agencies from recognizing a person as anything other than her biological gender. .
Moreover:‘Today is the start of Hate Week’ – Advocates Denounce Kansas Anti-Transgender Bills Surge
Passed ban on transgender athletes for third consecutive year
Passage of the ban on transgender athletes will again spark a showdown with Kelly, who has vetoed the bill for the past two years.
But their margins seem to give the House the upper hand. Only two Republicans, Representatives Mark Schreiber, R-Emporia, and David Younger, R-Ulysses, voted no.
Democrat Ford Carr of Wichita’s vote in favor of the bill would give Republicans the 84 votes needed to override, assuming absentee GOP members supported the measure, as they should.
Kelly’s veto is not in doubt, telling reporters earlier this year that the trend of anti-trans laws “breaks my heart.”
“Stop it,” he said. “This is an ideological statement that has nothing to do with the welfare of the state of Kansas and does nothing in the interests of its constituents. It just needs to stop.”
Supporters of the bill argue that it is necessary to guard against situations seen in other states, where trans athletes have won championships.
University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines has appeared in states across the country and cut TV ads in support of Republicans in Kansas, indicating her experience finishing behind the University of Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas, who won a National championship Collegiate Athletic Association in 2021.
“Why should women be forced to compete against a male in women’s sports, why?” said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita. “The physicality is the same now. Why do we expect women to undress in the locker room alongside men. Why would we force women and girls to undress in front of a boy and vice versa?”
The Kansas State High School Activities Association reported just two transgender youth in after-school activities this year, though it’s not clear whether they’re participating in athletics or other programs, such as debate. And KSHSAA has policies in place regarding trans athletes, even though critics say they don’t go far enough.
Opponents have said there is insufficient evidence that the problem exists in Kansas to target transgender youth, with opponents pointing to data that trans children are more likely than their cisgender peers to have depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.
Representative Heather Meyer, D-Overland Park, whose son is transgender, said children “shouldn’t be forced back into the closet” and that the bill addresses an issue that doesn’t exist.
“Our kids don’t make these decisions out of the blue,” Meyer said. “There’s so much fear and hate and bullying, and if they don’t have affirmative parents, they’re in so much trouble, so much worse. There’s no kid who would say, ‘I want to be more competitive in sports, so I want to be a woman.’ This is ridiculous.”
Lawmakers have pointed out the potentially negative economic ramifications, noting that chambers of commerce in the Kansas City metropolitan area have opposed the idea.
Rep. Barb Wasinger R-Hays countered that states with similar laws in place had been sponsored by the NCAA in recent years, despite threats from the governing body in 2021.
“It’s an empty threat,” he said during a House Republican caucus meeting.
Efforts to ban gender-affirming child care in Kansas are moving forward
In the Kansas Senate, meanwhile, lawmakers have advanced a pair of bills that have been called an even more aggressive attack on transgender rights.
Both bills fell short of the threshold needed to overturn Kelly’s veto after three GOP senators – Sens. Brenda Dietrich, R-Topeka, John Doll, R-Garden City and Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick – approved or voted no
Senate Bill 233 would ban doctors from providing gender-affirming care to minors, requiring state regulators to strip anyone found in violation of the bill of their medical license.
Transgender people say the bill would target treatments vital to their health and well-being.
But Senator Beverly Gossage, R-Eudora, a former elementary school teacher, compared decisions about transitioning to nickname preferences.
“They change the way they see themselves. They like changing their hair. They don’t know what they want to be when they grow up,” she said. “That changes often. We’re talking about children. Doctors don’t have a reliable way to know if the discomfort children feel with their bodies means they are destined to feel this way for the rest of their lives.”
Younger teenagers may be given puberty blockers that stop or delay the onset of puberty, with the goal of giving a young person more time to determine their gender identity before certain sexual characteristics — such as genitalia, hair or breasts — develop more fully.
Even older teens or adults may take estrogen or testosterone in an effort to develop sex characteristics more in line with their identity. The country’s largest medical and health groups have remained consistent in their belief that treatments can be important in improving the mental health of an otherwise vulnerable population.
Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, referred to the August vote against a bill to erode state constitutional protections on abortion in expressing her opposition to the issue.
“This bill would create a precedent where medical providers shouldn’t give you the best medical care available, but instead give you the medical care that politicians decide you should have access to,” he said.
Kansas Lawmakers Advance ‘Women’s Rights Bill’
The Senate also passed a measure, Senate Bill 180, that would create a “women’s bill of rights,” legislation that would impact both transgender adults and youth.
The bill would define a person deemed female at birth as a “woman” in state statute and would require people to use public facilities, such as restrooms, locker rooms and detention centers, consistent with their biological sex.
It would also require government statisticians to count individuals based on their biological sex and prevent public documents, such as birth certificates, from being changed to reflect an individual’s gender identity.
Supporters have argued that it does not directly address transgender individuals, though critics counter that it is a farce. The text of the Kansas bill is almost a carbon copy of the language promoted by a group of national groups.
Jennifer Braceras, of Independent Women’s Voice, one of those groups, told lawmakers during a hearing earlier this month that the state is “under threat from activists who want to redefine common words based on sex.
“Our institutions must not be forced to integrate men and women into prisons, domestic violence shelters where the differences between men and women matter,” Braceras said.
Opponents argue that the bill would effectively make transgender people invisible to the state.
“The irony of the Women’s Rights Bill is that it doesn’t really enumerate any rights,” said the Rev. Caroline Dean, a Lawrence pastor representing Kansas Interfaith Action. “Weaponize rights rhetoric to undo protections for transgender people.”