After three years of trying, Kansas has passed an anti-trans sports ban, and advocates are worried that the legislation will lead to invasive and traumatic genital examinations of student-athletes.
The Republican-dominated legislature overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) third veto of the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which bans transgender girls and women in kindergarten through college from participating in girls’ and women’s school sports.
The bill was introduced by state Rep. Barbara Wasinger (R), who said during a House meeting in February that it would be enforced through the athletes’ physicals. She claimed she did not remember whether that meant students would be forced to undergo genital examinations.
“It breaks my heart,” Kelly said in the wake of the bill’s passage. “I’m sorry that they distracted themselves with this really awful bill.”
Trans women in sports do not pose a threat to cisgender women athletes, but Republicans still devoted their time to a law that will only apply to three people. The Kansas State High School Activities Association told NPR that only three out trans girls are currently playing sports out of the 106,000 student-athletes involved in the organization. Not only that, but two of them are reportedly about to graduate, so the law will soon only apply to a single student.
Elana Redfield, federal policy director for the UCLA School of Law, said anti-trans laws like this one are “mostly ideological” and “not particularly tied to an urgent problem that’s happening in Kansas or in any other state.”
In her veto message, Kelly wrote that the bill was about politics and not about protecting kids.
“It won’t increase test scores. It won’t help any kids read or write. It won’t help any teachers prepare our kids for the real world. Here’s what this bill would actually do: harm the mental health of our students.”
The ACLU of Kansas also blasted the bill’s passage, calling it a “devastating blow to student athletics and basic fairness.”
“We want transgender youth to know they are not alone,” said executive director Michael Kubic, “and we will continue to vehemently support their right to be their true selves in every aspect of their lives. The lawmakers who chose to take up space this session with extremist and dangerous political postures must reconcile their actions with what it costs the people—and children—of Kansas.”
“The legislative extremists who brought us these measures may have succeeded in writing discrimination into state law for now, but Kansans who care about fairness, justice, and equality are not done fighting for those values. We will be back year after year, for as long as it takes, to ensure our state’s laws embody those values, rather than the harassment, discrimination, and bigotry of these bills.”
Michigan’s Senate Majority whip Mallory McMorrow also railed against the bill.
“Forced genital inspections. Of CHILDREN,” McMorrow wrote. “The Republicans who claim to care about protecting children voted for forced genital inspections of children because they’re afraid a trans kid might want to play on a team with their friends.”
This week, the Kansas legislature also passed another extremely restrictive anti-trans bill – which Republicans named the Women’s Bill of Rights – that bans trans people from utilizing public spaces like locker rooms and restrooms as their gender. It also bans them from legally changing their gender.
Many are calling on Gov. Kelly to veto this bill as well, though her veto would likely be overridden again by the Republican majority.