Respect Equality

Kansas lawmakers uphold governor’s veto of trans sports ban

“Compassion wins today.”
Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Byers, D-Wichita, speaks against overriding Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a ban on transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s school and college sports, Thursday, April 28, 2022, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

Story at a glance

  • The Kansas House of Representatives on Thursday sustained Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto of a bill that would have barred transgender athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

  • The House also sustained the governor’s veto on legislation that would have created a Parental Bill of Rights.

  • State senators in Kansas earlier this week voted to override Kelly’s veto of both bills.

Lawmakers in Kansas on Thursday sustained Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto of two bills accused of being discriminatory against LGBTQ+ people in the state. 

One of them, a transgender athlete ban, would have barred transgender women and girls from competing on school sports teams consistent with their gender identity. The other would have established a Parental Bill of Rights allowing parents to challenge classroom materials inconsistent with their personal beliefs.

The state House of Representatives on Thursday voted to sustain Kelly’s veto of Senate Bill 160 – officially titled the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” – that would have required public schools from the elementary to the university level to designate sports teams by “biological sex,” or a student’s sex assigned at birth.

“Compassion wins today,” Kansas state Rep. Brandon Woodard (D), who in 2019 became one of the state’s first openly gay legislators, tweeted Thursday following the House vote. While the state Senate had earlier this week voted to override the governor’s veto, the House failed to get the two-thirds majority necessary to do so.

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A nearly identical bill was vetoed by Kelly last year.

“We all want a fair and safe place for our kids to play and compete,” Kelly wrote earlier this month in a veto message. “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.”

The vote comes just a day after Kansas state Rep. Cheryl Helmer (R) in an email to a constituent wrote that she was uncomfortable sharing a restroom with state Rep. Stephanie Byers (D), who is transgender, according to the Kansas Reflector.

“Now, personally I do not appreciate the huge transgender female who is now in our restrooms in the Capitol,” Helmer wrote in the April 23 message. “It is quite uncomforting. I have asked the men if they would like a woman in their restroom and they freaked out.”

On the House floor Thursday, Byers responded to Helmer’s message, telling her colleagues, “If the events of this week do not indicate that this is not about athletics, I’m not sure what does.”

House lawmakers on Thursday also voted to sustain the governor’s veto of House Bill 58, which would have given parents greater authority to review and challenge learning materials inconsistent with their “firmly held beliefs, values or principles,” which LGBTQ+ advocates have previously said would likely target topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

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