BREAKING: Kansas Legislature Sustains Governor’s Veto of Bill Banning Transgender Students from Playing School Sports

by Henry Berg-Brousseau

KANSAS — Today, the Kansas House voted to sustain Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of Senate Bill 160, a bill that would prevent transgender students from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity, from the elementary to university level. The Senate voted to override the governor’s veto on Tuesday, but the House failed to get the 2/3 majority needed to override her veto with a vote of 81 yea, 41 nay.

The legislation was passed in a last-ditch effort when Senate Bill 160, a bill regulating fisheries and wildlife, was gutted in conference committee and replaced with the the discriminatory language the Governor vetoed.

“Both Republican and Democratic Governors have joined me in vetoing similar divisive bills for the same reasons: it’s harmful to students and their families and it’s bad for business," Kelly said in a release announcing her veto earlier this month.

In 2021, Gov. Kelly vetoed Senate Bill 55, an anti-trans sports bill, after legislators passed it last year and that veto was also sustained. Republican governors Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah and Gov. Eric Holcomb of Indiana both vetoed similar bills in their states this legislative session, rejecting discriminatory anti-transgender sports bans approved by their state legislatures. These types of bills and the incendiary, hurtful language surrounding them have a detrimental impact on Kansas’s vulnerable LGBTQ+ population that is already three times as likely to experience depression and nearly twice as likely to experience anxiety as non-LGBTQ+ Kansans.

Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley released the following statement:

“We sincerely thank Gov. Kelly for rejecting this discriminatory legislation and allowing transgender kids to be who they are – kids. We also want to thank the 81 legislators who heard the voices of transgender kids and their families, medical experts, the business community, and advocates for fairness in sports – and voted to sustain the governor’s veto.
This harmful legislation has no place in Kansas or any other state. Kansans deserve better than legislators who bully transgender youth – youth who pose no threat and just want to play sports with their friends.”

The latest PRRI data show that support for LGBTQ+ rights is on the rise in Kansas and nationwide: 77% of Kansans support nondiscrimination protections, and 57% of Kansans oppose refusal of service on religious grounds. Approximately eight in ten Americans (79%) favor laws that would protect LGBTQ+ people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. This reflects an 11% increase in the proportion of Americans who support nondiscrimination protections since 2015 (71%).

A record number of anti-transgender bills were filed in 2021, largely focused on denying transgender youth the ability to receive gender-affirming care and participate in school athletics programs. Even more anti-transgender legislation is on track to be filed in 2022. There are more than 320 anti-LGBTQ+ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country. Of those, at least 130 directly target transgender people and approximately half of those (70+ bills) would ban trans youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.

The Justice Department issued a letter this month to all state attorneys general reminding them of federal constitutional and statutory provisions that protect transgender youth against discrimination.

HRC recently announced a collaboration with WarnerMedia to launch a video called “Let Us Play.” The video, which features transgender youth playing sports with their friends, calls on leaders and legislators in states across the country to simply let transgender kids play.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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