The Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature on Thursday approved a group of bills targeting transgender people and gender-affirming health care.
The GOP-backed bills will likely be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly should they make it to her desk. That would set up a political fight to override her opposition later in the session. In all three votes, the lawmakers came close to — but did not not surpass — the two-thirds majority needed to override Kelly.
Two bills approved by the Senate would ban doctors from providing gender-affirming care to children and create the so-called “women’s bill of rights” that legally defines a person’s sex as the sex they were assigned at birth. The senators voted 26-11 and 26-10, respectively. The bills now head to the House for consideration.
Under the first bill, doctors could lose their licenses and be subject to lawsuits if they provide health care such as prescribing estrogen or testosterone to help a young person transition their gender. It could effectively stifle the treatments in Kansas.
Republican Sen. Mark Steffen likened gender-affirming care for children to “mutilation.” And Republican Sen. Mike Thompson argued the bill will protect children from doctors who put them on the path to a gender transition that they may later regret.
“We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening,” Thompson said. “The future of this state is at risk if we do not protect our progeny.”
But Democratic senators argued the bill goes against medical science and would harm children facing hardships because they feel a mismatch between their sex and gender identity.
Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes said children in Kansas deserve the chance to receive health care that would help them survive those hardships.
“Let’s stop attacking the transgender community, including their support systems, just because we don’t understand them,” Sykes said.
In the House, the representatives voted 82-40 to approve a bill that bans transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s sports. The bill now heads to the Senate.
Supporters argued men’s biological advantages over women are unfair and that women’s locker rooms need protection. Republican Rep. Barb Wasinger said allowing transgender women to participate means women’s sports are being threatened.
“For all the feminists in this body, let me ask you,” Wasinger said, “when did it become politically correct to discriminate against women?”
Opponents said the bill does not protect fairness in sports, but amounts to extremist and hateful views on transgender people. Democratic Rep. Jerry Stogsdill said the bill would also be bad for the state’s economy.
“A lot of companies,” Stogsdill said, “have policies that would prevent them from locating or expanding in a state that promotes prejudice against members of the LGBTQ community.”
The Legislature tried and failed to override vetoes of similar bills by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly the past two years. So far, 18 states have passed similar legislation.
Dylan Lysen reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen (at) kcur (dot) org.
Samantha Horton covers health care for KCUR and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @SamHorton5.
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