Veto of Kansas bill on trans athletes cancels wrestling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas bill barring transgender athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s sports was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for a third straight year on Friday, setting up a hotly contested battle in the Republican-controlled Legislature. authority to cancel it.

Kelly’s action was expected because of her two previous vetoes. Kansas Republicans have made Kelly’s veto a major issue in a slew of television attack ads when she ran for re-election last year, narrowly winning.

The governor said in his veto message that the bill would harm the mental health of students and harm the state’s efforts to recruit businesses. Kelly also said lawmakers should leave the matter to the state association created decades ago to govern student activities in middle and high schools.

“Let’s be clear about what this bill is about – politics,” Kelly wrote. “It will not increase test scores. It will not help children read or write. This will not help any teacher prepare our children for the real world.

Kelly’s arguments Friday were similar to those she has made in previous veto announcements and during her re-election campaign. Taryn Jones, a lobbyist for LGBTQ rights group Equality Kansas, called the bill “really just unnecessary.”

“They’re fine with discriminating against a marginalized community,” Jones said after the veto.

Republicans have more than the two-thirds majority in both chambers needed to override a veto, but in 2021 and 2022 several moderate Republicans voted against Kelly’s override. House and Senate votes on this year’s bill suggest supporters may have enough votes to prevail.

“Despite her repeated promises to meet us in the middle, the governor has decided to once again side with the most radical elements of her party,” Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita Republican, said in a statement Friday.

The measure would apply to girls and women’s K-12, club and college sports. If supporters can override Kelly’s veto, Kansas would join 18 other states with such a law, including Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas.

The measure is among dozens of Republican proposals opposing transgender rights in US state houses. Kansas has bills aimed at banning gender-affirming care for minors and preventing transgender men and women from using bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities associated with their gender identity.

Kelly’s veto came a day after approval by the Republican-dominated Kentucky Legislature ban on gender-affirming care for minors and Iowa’s GOP-controlled Legislature approves school bathroom bill.

In defense of the legislation, Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, recently posted tweets supporting a theory debunked by multiple studies that “social contagion” has led to more people identifying as transgender.

He and other Republicans also argue that banning transgender athletes will preserve fair competition and opportunities for girls and young women.

“It’s common sense,” Hawkins said in a statement Friday.

Kansas representatives and LGBTQ rights advocates say only a handful of young transgender people participate in high school activities — and possibly only one transgender Kansas girl is on a sports team. Supporters of the bill say the state must act before transgender athletes become more common.

During her re-election campaign, Kelly aired a TV ad in which she looked into the camera and said, “Of course men shouldn’t play women’s sports. Okay, we all agree on that.

LGBTQ rights advocates understand the ad as saying that men don’t play women’s sports because transgender women are women. But Republicans said she lied about her record and have repeatedly referenced her statement since then.

“Now that she no longer has to face the voters, the governor has done another facial,” Hawkins said.

The vote last week in the Senate was 28-11, giving supporters one more than the two-thirds needed in the 40-member chamber to override a veto.

However, the House will vote first, and the vote there last month was 82-40. While supporters need 84 of 125 votes to override the veto, two Republicans who supported the bill were absent.

Supporters fell short of a two-thirds majority in the House last year, but in last year’s election three Republicans who supported the ban replaced GOP lawmakers who had voted against overriding Kelly’s veto. Also, while no Democrats voted last year to override Kelly, incoming Democratic Rep. Ford Carr of Wichita voted for this year’s bill.

Republican lawmakers in Kansas have also pursued a bill revoke the state medical licenses of doctors providing puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgery to transgender minors. It passed the Senate last month, but the House has not had a committee hearing.

Another Senate-passed bill would define men and women in Kansas law based on a person’s anatomy at birth and declare that cisgender women and girls have the right to private spaces separate from men, such as bathrooms and locker rooms.

LGBTQ rights advocates said the measure not only bars transgender people from accessing facilities related to their gender identity, but also legally erases them, along with gender non-conforming and non-binary people.

The bill’s text would also prevent transgender people from changing birth certificates and driver’s licenses to reflect their gender identity, although Kansas has been under a federal court order since 2019. to allow changes to the birth certificate.

The measure is before the House after one of its committees rewrote it this week to prevent it from applying to intersex people. Intersex describes people born with genitalia, chromosomes, or reproductive organs that don’t fit the typical definitions of male or female.

“We don’t want to marginalize them anymore,” said Republican Rep. Ron Bryce, a physician from southeast Kansas.


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