Lawmakers have vowed to continue pushing for legislation banning transgender athletes from female and female sports, even though members were unable to garner enough votes to overturn Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto on Monday.
The bill, which is part of an effort to sweep away conservative states across the country, was defeated by Kelly last month.
She echoed concerns from LGBT activists that it would harm the mental health of transgender youth, saying it sends “a devastating message” and threatens the state’s economic position.
In a tense vote on Monday, the Kansas Senate nearly garnered enough votes to move forward with rescinding the veto. Members ultimately fell by a vote below the 27-member threshold required to bypass, as three Republican members chose to oppose the legislation.
Vote fails by tiny margin on ban on trans athletes
But he’s a Democratic senator, Senator David Haley, D-Kansas City, Kan. Who ultimately decided the fate of the bill.
After passing in the previous two votes on the issue, Haley ultimately opposed the bill, while saying it raised legitimate concerns about how transgender people might affect opportunities for female athletes.
This is a point made by the promoters of the bill, who argued that it was a means of ensuring fair competition in women’s sport.
Haley said in an extended speech that he shared his concerns about biological differences between the sexes and noted his reluctance to take a position on the bill.
At one point he compared himself to a Civil War-era soldier who wore a blue jacket in support of the Union and gray pants in alliance with the Confederacy, claiming he would end ” by “to be shot from both sides. ”
“David Haley cannot win in this discussion, in this debate,” he said.
Haley said after the vote, the potential economic impacts of the legislation caused him to side with the opposition.
The rejection of the bill prompted the National Collegiate Athletic Association to declare that “only places where hosts can commit to providing a safe, healthy and free from discrimination” will be chosen in the future, a direct response to the law Project.
Other economic development organizations, particularly in metro Kansas City, Kan., Have also expressed concerns about the impact of the legislation on businesses relocating to Kansas.
Chillin ‘in the Statehouse Episode 8: Transgender Sports Bill
“I think there are a lot of sports entities, national organizations that will look to places like Kansas to see how big the opportunities would be,” Haley told reporters. “That’s really what rocked me.”
Despite the slim margin, LGBT activists and civil rights groups applauded the bill’s demise.
An emotional Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said campaigners were not sure until the final vote was counted as to the end result.
“After a long reputation as anti-LGBT, this state is making progress on the rights of LGBT people, it is making progress on the rights of transgender people,” Witt said.
Supporters pledge to pursue the issue, make it a campaign debate
Supporters of the bill criticized Kelly for his veto on Monday and were equally vocal in their criticism of the effect organizations like the NCAA had on the bill’s fate, saying it amounted to corporate harassment .
“I think this shows his real extreme left leanings,” Senator Renee Erickson, R-Wichita, the bill’s main proponent, said of Kelly’s veto. “Every indication I got is that it’s not a Kansas value.”
Haley said, despite his non-vote, that he believes the debate will continue to be important in the future.
While data from the Kansas State High School Activities Association suggests that relatively few transgender people have attempted to participate in girls’ sports in Kansas, Haley said those numbers would increase over time.
“Today, in 2021, there will be maybe five,” Haley said. “My concern is that the first transgender girl or woman has the competitive physical advantage of defeating an organically born woman and that in fact there are repercussions.”
Similar legislation is likely to be discussed again in Kansas, with supporters not ruling out an attempt to resurrect the proposal this session.
Members in Florida, for example, tied the transgender athlete bill into a separate proposal allowing varsity athletes to take advantage of their name, image and likeness – legislation that is also being considered in Kansas.
Erickson said on Monday that there were no firm plans to reconsider the issue in 2021, but added that things could change in the future.
“We’re going to keep talking,” Brittany Jones, advocacy director for the Family Policy Alliance, told reporters. “Our options are not dead.”
A more likely scenario, however, is that Republicans aim to bring the issue back until the next session.
Senate Speaker Ty Masterson R-Andover has pledged as much, while Jones said it would be a potential problem in the 2022 election unless action is taken.
“It’s a question the Kansans (will use to) make decisions about who they want to represent them in the legislature and as their governor,” Jones said. “It’s still an issue the Kansans care about.”
But Representative Stephanie Byers, D-Wichita, the first openly transgender lawmaker in the state’s history, said members would go ahead with the proposal at their peril.
“If they’re trying to bring this next session back, I think it’s clear in everyone’s mind that this is intentional bullying,” Byers said. “It’s not about women’s sports or fairness or whatever. It’s just, ‘These are people we don’t like and we want to get them out of Kansas. one way or another. “
“I’ll be here next year too, and we’ll get up again.”