Governor vetoes transgender athlete bill, SB 55

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly Wednesday, March 3, 2021, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (AP...
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly Wednesday, March 3, 2021, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna)(John Hanna | AP)
Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 1:18 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has vetoed Senate Bill 55 also known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. It was spearheaded and championed by the GOP-majority in the legislature.

Kelly’s office referred to the legislation as “divisive” in a news release Thursday, saying her veto will keep “Kansas welcoming and open for business.”

“This legislation sends a devastating message that Kansas is not welcoming to all children and their families, including those who are transgender - who are already at a higher risk of bullying, discrimination, and suicide.

As Kansans, we should be focused on how to include all students in extracurricular activities rather than how to exclude those who may be different than us. Kansas is an inclusive state and our laws should reflect our values. This law does not do that.

This bill would also undoubtedly harm our ability to attract and retain businesses. It would send a signal to prospective companies that Kansas is more focused on unnecessary and divisive legislation than strategic, pro-growth lawmaking.”

Reaction from proponents of the bill was swift, with the Kansas Family Policy Alliance claiming Gov. Kelly has “betrayed Kansas girls.”

“Governor Kelly has sided today with the NCAA, who can’t even ensure girls have decent locker rooms, and the radical Left, who are working to erase women,” Brittany Jones with the KFPA wrote in an email. “Why would a family choose to move to Kansas if they knew their daughter’s opportunities were going to be stolen by a biological boy, no matter how hard that girl tried? If the Governor won’t stand up in this simple way, when will she stand up for girls?”

“We call on the House & the Senate to override this discriminatory veto & let Kansas women know we will keep fighting for them,” Jones concluded her email.

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson and Senator Renee Erickson had this to say in a joint statement:

“It’s not surprising but nonetheless disappointing that Governor Kelly opted to veto the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act and capitulate to the mistruths and extreme rhetoric offered by the left. The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act is as simple as it sounds--it ensures fairness. It’s not about anything else other than that, and no state should allow itself to be intimidated by big corporations or the NCAA into pretending otherwise. We will continue to fight for fairness in women’s sports until this bill becomes law.”

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes praised the governor and urged her colleagues in the legislature to “accept” Kelly’s vetoes:

“The Legislature has picked up a nasty habit this year of sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong and creating restrictive laws to address problems that don’t exist. The bills vetoed by Governor Kelly this afternoon range from unnecessary to discriminatory. I urge my colleagues in leadership to accept the Governor’s vetoes and allow us to spend our remaining time in session addressing the needs of hardworking Kansans, passing a balanced budget, and meeting our constitutional requirement to fund our public schools.”

House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer agreed in his statement:

“I applaud the Governor’s decision on her veto of Senate Bill 55. SB 55 masquerades itself as a pro-women bill when in reality it is nothing more than discrimination designed to attack and bully the LGBTQ community. This bill also puts Kansas at risk of jumping into an unnecessary plethora of lawsuits that would cost the state millions of dollars to litigate—dollars that should be going to Kansans and their families.”

The Democratic Party referred to SB 55 as a “bigoted” bill meant to “openly bully children”.

But Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb sees it very differently.

“We’ve seen increasing examples of males dominating girls’ athletic competitions when competing as females, capturing championships, and shattering long-standing female track records,” Holcomb wrote in an emailed statement. “While we are disappointed by the governor’s veto, we are thankful to Kansas legislators for taking a strong stand for female athletes, and we encourage them to override Gov. Kelly’s veto and codify protections for women’s sports into law.”

The governor also vetoed House Bill 2089 and House Bill 2039, writing:

“The Kansas Constitution endows our state Board of Education with the authority to set the curriculum for our public schools. We should let the state Board of Education do that job, not the Legislature. This is legislative overreach. I encourage the Legislature to work with the State Board of Education to modify curriculum.”

HB 2089 was an effort to standardize firearm safety education training programs in school districts, while HB 2039 would have required the administration of a basic civics test as part of the course in United States history and government that is necessary for high school graduation in Kansas.

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