Human Rights Campaign Applauds Kansas Governor Laura Kelly for Blunting Latest Attack on LGBTQ+ Youth, Vetoing Legislators’ Attempt to Ban Transgender Kids from School Sports

by Cullen Peele

Topeka, KS - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, commended Kansas Governor Laura Kelly for vetoing HB 2238, a bill banning the participation of transgender student-athletes in school sports. This is the third discriminatory sports ban Kelly has vetoed during her tenure as governor. Despite there only being three transgender students competing in school-related sports in Kansas, and the fact that today’s veto has been expected, lawmakers continued to push this bill and promote misinformation and fear surrounding transgender people.

This legislation is the result of ongoing far-right pressure placed upon lawmakers, spearheaded by national anti-LGBTQ+ organizations and political extremists peddling propaganda and disinformation on social media and other platforms. It is one of hundreds of bills being pushed by national anti-LGBTQ+ organizations across dozens of states.

“Anti-equality legislators in Kansas have spent years repeatedly targeting a small group of already marginalized young people who want to play sports for the same reason all students do - to learn sportsmanship, self-discipline and teamwork, and to have fun. The legislature has made it clear that this discrimination is what it stands for, despite every piece of evidence showing that there is no rational reason underpinning this legislation.

“In contrast, Governor Kelly treated Kansas students with dignity and respect by refusing to allow children and school athletics to be treated as a political game. By vetoing this discriminatory legislation she not only took a stand against discrimination, but she also saved Kansas taxpayers the expense of defending this litigation in court, as other states have had to do. Transgender kids are kids - they deserve every opportunity that any kid does. All students, and all Kansans, are better off because of Governor Kelly's decision today.”

Cathryn Oakley, HRC State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel

Kelly is currently in her second term as governor, winning her bid for reelection last year. Despite a series of ads attacking Kelly for her vetoes of sports bans targeting transgender youth, and with her opponent stating that he would sign anti-transgender legislation if elected, Kansas voters turned out and decided to reject anti-equality rhetoric and extremism.

A majority of Americans oppose discriminatory bills seeking to ban transgender and non-binary youth from participation in sports. A PBS/NPR/Marist poll states that 67% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, oppose the anti-transgender sports ban legislation proliferating across 30 states. And a poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group revealed that, with respect to transgender youth participation in sports, the public’s strong inclination is on the side of fairness and equality for transgender student athletes. 73% of voters agree that “sports are important in young people’s lives. Young transgender people should be allowed opportunities to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.”

Advocates for women and girls in sports support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports. This includes the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports, and others — including prominent female athletes like Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe, and Cheryl Reeve. That’s because while there are real issues facing women’s sports, including a lack of resources devoted to supporting them, transgender participation in athletics is not one of them. And nearly 550 college athletes have stood up to anti-transgender legislation by demanding the NCAA pull championships from states that have enacted anti-trans sports laws.

The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups oppose sports bans. Groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1,000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ+ people, and transgender children in particular.

In 2022, lawmakers introduced 80 bills aimed to prevent transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law. 19 states exclude transgender athletes in school sports.

For more information, please access the following resources on HRC’s website:

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