Kansas Senate sustains transgender sports bill veto; lawmakers, activists react

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — A controversial bill banning athletes born biologically male from playing in women’s sports died on the Senate floor Monday. The bill was one vote shy of the two-thirds majority vote needed to override the governor’s veto.

While some supporters of the bill see the decision as a loss, others are calling it a victory for equality.

“It sends a message of hope and affirmation to trans youth,” said Liz Hamor, community outreach director for Equality Kansas.

Hamor’s organization has been fighting against the legislation since it was introduced, calling it a discriminatory measure against transgender athletes in the state.

However, supporters of the bill have called it the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, arguing that it’s about creating a leveled playing field for women athletes in the state. Senator Renee Erickson, R-Wichita, who carried the bill, touted biological differences between women and those born biologically male.

“Either you support equal opportunities for women, or you don’t,” Erickson said.

A two-thirds majority vote is needed for the House and Senate to override the governor’s veto. This means 84 out of 125 in the House and 27 out of 40 in the Senate.

The Senate failed to overturn the governor’s veto with only 26 members voting in favor of the bill, and 14 voting against the measure.

Three Republican lawmakers voted against party lines. Senator Brenda Dietrich, R-Topeka, wrote the following statement, regarding her decision to vote to sustain the governor’s veto.

“I have always strongly supported female athletes as I was a Superintendent in our local schools for 14 years.

When considering my vote on a piece of legislation, I always ask myself, “Is it necessary?” Rather than establishing more laws for the sake of passing laws, I support local control and have confidence our locally elected officials can address this appropriately.

We have not heard about any issues with transgender students competing in Kansas. Locally, school boards, administrators, and KSHSAA have policies in place and work together to figure these things out. We have had no issue that I know of for the last 10 years because all of these situations are addressed in the local community. There are 5 transgender students in our public schools who are on teams and none are transgender girls competing at the high school level. If this is an issue for Kansas school districts and our universities, then we will deal with it. At this point in time I feel there is no need for a state statute. Today I vote for local control, for limited government and for kindness and compassion for those children who are trying to find their place in the world.”

Senator Brenda Dietrich, R-Topeka

Senator John Doll, R-Garden City and Senator Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick also voted against overriding the governor’s decision.

Opponents of the measure are hoping it will send a message of hope to people in the LGBTQ community.

“People are saying it’s about girls and women… I think it’s about fairness to students, so we want to make sure that if you’re a student in our public schools, that you have an opportunity to participate in sports,” said Senator Marci Francisco, R-Lawrence.

Governor Laura Kelly vetoed a long list of bills over the past few weeks. This is just one of several measures lawmakers are bringing back to the floor, with Senate Republican leadership promising to push to override the governor’s decision on items concerning income tax laws to election laws and concealed carry.

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