Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly Vetoes Anti-Transgender Sports Ban

by Wyatt Ronan

KANSAS — Today, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly vetoed Senate Bill 55, an anti-transgender bill that bans transgender girls and women from participating in sports at the elementary, secondary, or post-secondary level consistent with their gender identity. If the state legislature upholds the Governor’s veto, Kansas will be among the first states to fully reject anti-transgender legislation in this session.

Legislators have failed to provide examples of issues in their states to attempt to justify these attacks on transgender youth, laying bare the reality that they are fueled by discrimination and not supported by fact. Collegiate and professional sports organizations have had trans-inclusive policies for years without incident — in Kansas or anywhere else.

There are so far 254 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country. Of those, 124 directly targets transgender people and about half of those (66 bills) would, like SB 55, ban transgender girls and women from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity.

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David released the following statement in response to Gov. Laura Kelly vetoing Senate Bill 55:

Governor Kelly’s veto is a win for Kansas. The Human Rights Campaign is grateful for the governor’s support of transgender Kansans, and we look forward to continued partnership with her administration to ensure that the state legislature honors and protects the dignity of LGBTQ people. SB 55 was nothing more than a politically motived bill that seeks to dehumanize transgender Kansans. The Kansas state legislature must uphold the veto and shift its legislative priorities to critical matters that legitimately impact the state. Transgender children are not seeking to gain an unfair competitive advantage. They are just children who want the opportunity to learn important skills of sportsmanship, competition, and teamwork with their peers.

Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President

This discriminatory legislation — pushed forward by state legislators in the middle of the night — has no place in the state of Kansas. This veto will prevent further discrimination against transgender kids who are simply trying to play sports with their friends. Transgender girls are girls, and transgender children are children. They deserve the chance to participate in athletic activities without fear of discrimination or exclusion. Fellow governors must follow the lead of Governor Kelly and veto anti-LGBTQ bills in their respective states.

Shawn Copeland, Human Rights Campaign Kansas State Director

We are extraordinarily grateful to Governor Kelly for her veto of this dangerous bill. Since she first began serving as a Kansas senator in 2005, she has been a strong and steadfast ally of the LGBTQ community. Transgender kids across Kansas know they have a champion in the fight for equality and fairness. Equality Kansas delivered hundreds of messages to Governor Kelly’s office over the past week from Kansans asking her to veto this bill. Our focus will now turn to asking legislators to sustain that veto. We will continue to fight so that SB 55 will never become law.

Tom Witt, Equality Kansas Executive Director

Wide range of business and advocacy groups, athletes oppose anti-trans legislation

  • More than 80 major U.S. corporations have stood up and spoke out to oppose anti-transgender legislation being proposed in states across the country. New companies like Facebook, Pfizer, Altria, Peloton, and Dell join companies like Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, AT&T, AirBnB, Google, Hilton, IBM, IKEA, Microsoft, Nike, Paypal, Uber, and Verizon in objecting to these bills. Four of the largest U.S. food companies also condemned “dangerous, discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender and nonbinary people,” and the Walton Family Foundation issued a statement expressing “alarm” at the trend of anti-transgender legislation that has recently become law in Arkansas.
  • The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1000 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.

The NCAA opposes efforts to limit participation of transgender students

The NCAA Board of Governors released a public letter making clear that it “firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports.” Moreover, “When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected.” This puts the 30 states with discriminatory anti-transgender

A fight driven by national anti-LGBTQ groups, not local legislators or public concern

These bills come from the same forces that drove previous anti-equality fights by pushing copycat bills across state houses — dangerous, anti-LGBTQ organizations like the Heritage Foundation, Alliance Defending Freedom (designated by Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group), and Eagle Forum among others.

  • For example, Montana’s HB 112, the first anti-transgender sports bill to be passed through a legislative chamber in any state, was worked on by the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Trans equality is popular: Anti-transgender legislation is a low priority, even among Trump voters

A new PBS/NPR/Marist poll states that 67% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, oppose the anti-transgender sports ban legislation proliferating across 30 states.

In a 10-swing-state poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group last fall:

  • At least 60% of Trump voters across each of the 10 swing states say transgender people should be able to live freely and openly.
  • At least 87% of respondents across each of the 10 swing states say transgender people should have equal access to medical care, with many states breaking 90% support
  • When respondents were asked about how they prioritized the importance of banning transgender people from participating in sports as compared to other policy issues, the issue came in dead last, with between 1% and 3% prioritizing the issue.

Another more recent 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.”

States that pass anti-transgender legislation suffer economic, legal, reputational harm

Analyses conducted in the aftermath of previous divisive anti-transgender bills across the country, like the bathroom bills introduced in Texas and North Carolina and an anti-transgender sports ban in Idaho, show that there would be or has been devastating fallout.

  • The Idaho anti-transgender sports bill that passed was swiftly suspended by a federal district court. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) came out against the Idaho bill and others like it and subsequently moved planned tournament games out of Idaho.
  • The Associated Press projected that the North Carolina bathroom bill could have cost the state $3.76 billion over 10 years.
  • During a fight over an anti-transgender bathroom bill in 2017, the Texas Association of Business estimated $8.5 billion in economic losses, risking 185,000 jobs in the process due to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and professional sporting event cancellations, a ban on taxpayer funded travel to those states, cancellation of movie productions, and businesses moving projects out of state.

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