Metro Weekly

Kansas Republicans Override Veto of Transgender Bathroom Ban

Kansas lawmakers overrode a veto of a bill that bans transgender people from using facilities that don't match their assigned sex at birth.

Gov. Laura Kelly – Photo: Office of the Governor

Republican lawmakers in Kansas overrode a veto by Laura Kelly, the state’s Democratic governor, of a bill that LGBTQ advocates say is one of the most restrictive bills policing which public bathrooms transgender people can use. 

The Kansas House of Representatives voted 84-40 last week to pass the bill into law, and the Senate voted 28-12 to override the veto.

Initially, proponents of the bill did not have the votes needed to override the veto in the House. But two legislators that had not initially voted for the bill, Rep. Jesse Borjon (R-Topeka) and Marvin Robinson (D-Kansas City), voted with the Republican majority to push through the legislation over Kelly’s objections.

The bill defines sex in law as an “individual’s biological sex, either male or female, at birth,” based on whether a person’s biological reproductive system is developed to produce eggs or sperm.

It defines “woman,” “girl,” “man,” and “boy,” “mother,” “father” based on whether a person is male or female, and states that “with respect to biological sex, separate accommodations are not inherently unequal.” Thus, it prevents transgender people from using restrooms and other facilities that align with their assigned sex at birth.

The law claims that the government has an interest in “protecting the health, safety and privacy” of individuals by maintaining sex-segregated spaces, such as multi-user bathrooms, locker rooms, changing facilities, prisons, domestic violence shelters, and rape crisis centers.

LGBTQ advocates have argued that by adopting stringent definitions of “woman” and “man” under the law as being based only on one’s assigned sex at birth, the state is writing transgender people out of the law.

As a result, they fear that the law will be used to deny birth certificate or state identification gender marker changes, forcing transgender people to be recognized by the state, for legal purposes, only by their assigned sex at birth, reports The Hill. 

A similar measure adopting a nearly identical narrow view of what constitutes sex was recently signed into law by Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte. 

Kelly not only vetoed the transgender facilities ban, but other bills attacking the transgender community, including a ban on gender-affirming care for youth, a bill regulating overnight accommodations for students on school trips, and a bill requiring inmates to be housed based solely on their assigned sex at birth.

It remains unclear whether lawmakers have the votes needed to override those vetoes and enact the bills into law.

The legislature also previously overturned a separate veto of a bill barring transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports.

In a veto message, Kelly expressed concern that legislation viewed as hostile to the LGBTQ community would make the state vulnerable to possible legal challenges, and, more importantly, could dissuade businesses from relocating to the state. A similar backlash occurred in North Carolina in 2016 after the state passed a sweeping bill banning transgender people from multi-user facilities matching their gender identity.

“Companies have made it clear that they are not interested in doing business with states that discriminate against workers and their families,” Kelly wrote. “By stripping away rights from Kansans and opening the state up to expensive and unnecessary lawsuits, these bills would hurt our ability to continue breaking economic records and landing new business deals.

“I’m focused on the economy,” she added. “Anyone care to join me?”

Kelly followed up her veto message with a tweet thread.

“I promised Kansans I’d govern from the middle of the road and that I’d serve as a check on legislation that is too extreme one way or the other,” she tweeted. “I’m disappointed some legislators are eager to force through extremist legislation that will hurt our economy and tarnish our reputation as the Free State. I strive every day to make Kansas a place where more people want to work and raise a family.”

Civil rights advocates denounced lawmakers’ actions, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas calling our Borjon and Robinson for helping give anti-LGBTQ opponents the votes to push the measure into law.

Micah Kubic, the executive director of the ACLU of Kansas, said the bill “attempts to remove trans peoples’ ability to live a public life — by trying to codify into law a right to exclude trans people from athletics, restrooms, locker rooms, domestic violence shelters and other necessary spaces.”

Kubic also noted that the law could potentially risk the loss of funding for agencies that receive federal government dollars.

“The frenzy of attacks on transgender people this session by extremist Kansas lawmakers are truly stunning in their cruelty — and also do not align with the views of the majority of Kansans,” Kubic said in a statement.

“Our community remains resolute in our fight for everyone’s right to live authentically and joyfully and in our vision for an inclusive, kind, and welcoming Kansas,” DC Hiegert, an LGBTQ fellow for the ACLU of Kansas, added in a statement. “And we’re not going anywhere.”

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