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Trans equality wins in Kansas as legislature fails to override sports ban veto

Topeka, Kansas - January 14, 2019: Democrat Governor Laura Kelly delivers her inaugural speech is front of the steps of the Kansas State Capitol building
Topeka, Kansas - January 14, 2019: Democrat Governor Laura Kelly delivers her inaugural speech is front of the steps of the Kansas State Capitol building Photo: Shutterstock

The Kansas House failed to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto of a transgender sports ban, blocking the measure from becoming a law.

Kansas’s S.B. 160 passed earlier this month, banning transgender girls from participating in school sports as their gender. The bill does not similarly restrict transgender boys.

Related: GOP lawmaker calls Dem colleague “huge transgender female” in unhinged rant

The bill didn’t specify how sex will be determined, leaving it to school districts to decide how they will see who is transgender and who is cisgender. If they fail, the bill allows for school districts to be sued by students or other districts.

Kelly vetoed the bill, making her the fourth governor this year to veto a transgender sports ban this year. Two of the others – Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) – have had their vetoes overridden by their state’s legislatures, while the Indiana legislature has not yet tried to override Gov. Eric Holcolb’s (R) veto.

“Both Republican and Democratic Governors have joined me in vetoing similar divisive bills for the same reasons: it’s harmful to students and their families and it’s bad for business,” Kelly wrote in a statement when vetoing the bill.

“We all want a fair and safe space for our kids to play and compete. However, this bill didn’t come from the experts at our schools, our athletes or the Kansas State High School Activities Association. It came from politicians trying to score political points.”

This week, the Kansas Senate voted to override Kelly’s veto in a 28-10 vote. But only 81 out of 125 state house members voted to override her veto, just short of the 84 required. There are 85 Republicans in the Kansas House.

Out transgender state Rep. Stephanie Byers (D) asked her colleagues to reject the bill.

“Wrestle with your consciences, decide how you want to vote with this. Decide how you want to commit to the fact that trans women are not really women, trans girls are not really girls, or you’re going to say that trans girls are girls, trans women are women,” she said. “This is not a lifestyle. This is my existence.”

Out gay Rep. Brandon Woodard (D) also spoke out against the bill: “If you disapprove of who I am or who a young trans person is, take that up with our creator.”

According to LGBTQ advocates in the state, there is only one transgender girl currently competing in school sports in the state.

Earlier this week, a Kansas House Republican drew attention to the motivation behind the transgender sports ban when she sent a transphobic screed to a college student who asked her to oppose the bill.

“Personally I do not appreciate the huge transgender female who is now in our restrooms in the Capitol,” state Rep. Cheryl Helmer (R) wrote, referring to Byers. “It is quite uncomforting.”

“I have asked the men if they would like a woman in their restroom and they freaked out,” she continued.

“Little girls have been raped, sodomized and beaten in the restrooms by these supposedly transgenders who may or may not be for real.”

“As a Biology Major, I understand the difference biologically between a male and a woman,” Helmer continued. “No surgeon can cut, remove, wop, add to change the biology that is chemically occurring in each and every fiber, bone and molecule of every human being.”

The Kansas House could decide to override the veto again later in the session.

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