Kansas Lawmakers Spare Life-Saving Care for Transgender Youth, Yet Override Most of Governor Kelly’s Vetoes of Legislation Targeting LGBTQ+ Kansans, Once Again Submitting to Extremism and Perpetuating Hate

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, blasted Kansas legislators for voting to override a majority of Governor Laura Kelly’s vetoes of several discriminatory anti-transgender bills. In her veto statement on April 20, Governor Kelly gave a clear indication of what’s at stake for the state when extreme and vastly unpopular anti-LGBTQ+ bills continue to be introduced and enacted into law. “Companies have made it clear that they are not interested in doing business with states that discriminate against workers and their families,” she said. “I’m focused on the economy. Anyone care to join me?,” she further added.

Legislators failed to get the hint however, and rejected the Governor’s dose of reality by voting to override most of her vetoes, adding three more anti-LGBTQ+ laws to the books this year in Kansas. Kelly's veto of SB 26, however, was sustained, and the legislation will not become law. If enacted, SB 26 would have prohibited life-saving medically necessary, gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

Governor Kelly could not have been clearer in communicating just how grossly unnecessary and dangerous these anti-LGBTQ+ bills are, and how these efforts truly place the legislature at odds with public opinion. But as we’ve seen time and again, legislators, desperate for approval from the far fringes of their base, went full steam ahead to override most of the Governor’s vetoes and write discrimination into law. While we remain grateful for Governor Kelly and her focus on the issues that truly matter, we will continue to hold extremist politicians accountable for decisions that do nothing but harm LGBTQ+ Kansans, particularly transgender Kansans, an already marginalized group of people.”

Cathryn Oakley, HRC State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel

Among the bills enacted into law today is SB 180. The measure applies an unworkable definition of sex, that links a person’s sex to their reproductive systems. This undermines nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people under state law and allows for discrimination against transgender individuals in critical services such as domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, along with locker rooms and public restrooms. It also requires public schools and state agencies to specify an individual’s gender assigned at birth when conducting data collection efforts, creating additional scenarios that are ripe for discrimination.

Additional bills that the legislature voted to enact today:

  • SB 228: Forces transgender Kansans to be housed in jails according to a discriminatory definition of “sex”.

  • HB 2138: Forbids transgender students from using accommodations in accordance with their gender identity during overnight school trips

Today’s veto overrides follow Governor Kelly’s prior veto of a discriminatory anti-transgender sports ban last month. Despite Governor Kelly’s clear indication that the legislation would do more to stigmatize a vulnerable group of young Kansans, extremist lawmakers ultimately voted to override her veto, enacting the ban into law.

So far in 2023, HRC is opposing more than 540 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. More than 220 of those bills would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date.

This year, HRC is tracking:

  • More than 125 bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; this year, 13 have already become law in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia and North Dakota.

  • More than 30 bathroom ban bills filed,

  • More than 100 curriculum censorship bills and 40 anti-drag performance bills.

In a coordinated push led by national anti-LGBTQ+ groups, which deployed vintage discriminatory tropes, politicians in statehouses across the country introduced 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022 and 29 passed into law. Despite this, fewer than 10% of these efforts succeeded. The majority of the discriminatory bills – 149 bills – targeted the transgender and non-binary community, with the majority targeting children receiving the brunt of discriminatory legislation. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law.

Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in 2022 took several forms, including:

  • 80 bills aimed to prevent transgender youth from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity. 19 states now exclude transgender athletes in school sports.

  • 42 bills to prevent transgender and non-binary youth from receiving life-saving, medically-necessary gender-affirming healthcare. 5 states now restrict access to gender-affirming care.

  • 70 curriculum censorship bills tried to turn back the clock and restrict teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ issues and other marginalized communities in their classrooms. 7 passed into law.

More than 300 major U.S. corporations have stood up and spoken out to oppose anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being proposed in states across the country. Major employers in tech, manufacturing, hospitality, health care, retail, and other sectors are joining with a unified voice to say discrimination is bad for business and to call on lawmakers to abandon these efforts. 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 recently became law in Arkansas.

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