Three of the leading Republicans running for a U.S. Senate seat in Kansas have launched ads attacking transgender rights as they attempt to court social conservatives ahead of the state’s Aug. 4 primary.
Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, and Bob Hamilton, the owner of a plumbing business, have all attempted to outflank each other in terms of who is most opposed to transgender rights, even as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that LGBTQ workers are protected from workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
Kobach, the presumptive frontrunner, has promised that, if elected, he would introduce legislation to withhold Title IX federal funds from schools that allow transgender students to participate in women’s sports, citing a lawsuit brought by three cisgender female track athletes from Connecticut who claim they’ve lost opportunities as a result of having to compete against transgender females.
“It’s important to remember these trans athletes destroyed the dreams of female athletes who trained their whole lives for the honor of winning that championship only to have it snatched away by a biological male,” Kobach says in a nearly five-minute web video posted to his campaign’s YouTube channel.
In the ad, Kobach also compares the fight over transgender rights to the battle over same-sex marriage, and says conservatives need to take action to ensure they don’t lose another battle in the culture war.
“It’s time to take a stand for what’s right and what’s fair. Let’s face it. People who won’t stand up for their own daughters won’t stand up for yours,” Kobach, who has five daughters, says.
Tom Witt, the executive director of Equality Kansas, denounced Kobach’s proposal.
“In the past four years we have had five bills introduced in the Kansas Legislature that single out transgender and gender-nonconforming children…and now Kobach is taking this attack on little kids national,” Witt told the Wichita Eagle. “He is clearly hostile to LGBT people and has no place making laws for us.”
Marshall has launched his own ad attacking Hamilton by claiming he “bankrolled a transgender rights group,” based on Bob Hamilton Plumbing’s membership in the Mid-America LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Hamilton’s former company joined the chamber in 2016, a year before he sold it.
But Hamilton has his own ad claiming Marshall’s ad is false, and reiterating his opposition to transgender people using the bathroom matching their gender identity.
“I’m a plumber. Public bathrooms stay separate,” Hamilton says in the ad. “NO TRANSGENDER BATHROOMS.”
When asked about his business’s membership in the Chamber, Hamilton told the Eagle, “You know, you don’t control everything in your company.”
Suzanne Wheeler, the chamber’s executive director, told the Eagle that Marshall’s ad overstates the level of financial support Hamilton’s company gave the chamber, which was about $300 a year, or slightly more than the cost of annual dues and being listed on the chamber’s website as an LGBTQ-friendly business.” The chamber has since yanked the company’s name from its website in response to Hamilton’s ad.
Wheeler also criticized Marshall for implying in his ad that belonging to the chamber was something negative.
“Almost every employer across the country has LGBT+ individuals working for them,” she said. “Attacks like that just show folks like that aren’t supportive of an inclusive business environment.”
The winner of the Republican primary will likely face off against State Sen. Barbara Bollier, the presumptive Democratic nominee and a former Republican who left the GOP after being turned off by its embrace of Donald Trump and the Kansas GOP’s repeated attacks on LGBTQ rights.
The Human Rights Campaign, which has endorsed Bollier, issued a statement denouncing the Republicans’ decision to run anti-trans ads.
“Kobach, Marshall, and Hamilton are clearly in a race to the bottom trying to scapegoat vulnerable people to win a contentious primary vote,” Geoff Westrosky, HRC’s national campaign director, said in a statement. “The ads by their campaigns attacking transgender kids and LGBTQ people are cruel and completely out of step with Kansan and American values. LGBTQ people already face marginalization, higher than average suicide rates, and fears for their own safety. They should be protected, not demonized, and dehumanized for political gain.”
Citing a PRRI poll from April, Westrosky added: “Kansas voters overwhelmingly support equality — with over 72% of Kansans supporting LGBTQ non-discrimination protections — and will reject the Kobach-Marshall-Hamilton politics of extremism.”
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