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Kansas Republicans failed to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto of a bill barring transgender athletes from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.
Kelly vetoed the bill last month, calling it discriminatory and saying that the bill’s passage would send a negative message to the business community, which could cost Kansas economic opportunities.
The attempt at an override died in the Kansas Senate by one vote, with several moderate Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the bill.
Close to 70 similar bills have been introduced in 30 states, with governors in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia signing bans on transgender athletes into law.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem also signed an executive order prohibiting student-athletes from competing in sports based on their gender identity.
Opponents of the bill and LGBTQ advocates argued that the measure simply targets transgender youth and could result in bullying and discrimination, which could lead transgender youth to contemplate self-harm or suicide.
But proponents, including Senate President Ty Masterson, dismissed such arguments as a “distraction” from the fact that transgender females have an unfair advantage over cisgender females, according to the Kansas City Star.
The Kansas High School Athletics and Activities Association said last month that there are currently no out transgender athletes in the state who have requested to play on a girls’ sports team — a fact seized on by the bill’s opponents to argue the measure is unnecessary.
Other opponents noted that the bill’s passage could have triggered the NCAA to retaliate against Kansas by moving sporting events scheduled to be held in the state, such as the 2025 Division I men’s basketball championship, the 2024 Division II wrestling championships, and the regional rounds of the 2022 Division I women’s basketball tournament.
The loss of such events would also have an economic impact, denying local economies millions of dollars in revenue spent on food, lodging, and other accommodations by players, coaches, and fans.
The NCAA warned potential host cities last month that they are expected to commit to “ensuring that NCAA championships are open for all who earn the right to compete in them,” and said it would “closely monitor” the situation in states that attempt to pass anti-LGBTQ laws.
Sen. Renee Erickson (R-Wichita), the sponsor of the ban, and Brittany Jones, of the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, said they’d continue pushing for a ban, and promised to raise the issue ahead of the 2022 elections for statewide office and state legislature.
“This is an issue Kansans care about, this is an issue that Kansans will make decisions on who they want representing them in the Legislature and as Governor,” Jones told the Star.
The ACLU of Kansas has pledged to sue if a ban on transgender athletes passes, and the Kansas Attorney General’s office warned, prior to passage, that the bill could spark potentially costly lawsuits.
Rep. Stephanie Byers (D-Wichita), the state’s first transgender lawmaker, praised lawmakers who voted against the override.
“The fact that we have people who are willing to step up and say no, we’re not going to discriminate in Kansas, we’re not going to let this go through, we’re gonna sustain the governor’s veto fills my heart so much,” Byers said.
“We live in a country that we’re watching as our society evolves, we move forward…and it’s going to keep rolling because, as a country, we are more loving and accepting.”
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