Ban on transgender athletes hit in Kansas as governor vetoes bill

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The Democratic governor of Kansas has vetoed a bill that would have banned transgender student athletes from participating in women’s sports.

Governor Laura Kelly on Friday struck down the Women’s Sports Equity Act, which was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, and would have required state-funded schools and colleges to enforce the ban. More than a dozen states have enacted similar bans, say proponents of keeping the playing field level in school sports. Calling it flawed and divisive, Kelly is now among several governors who have blocked proposed bans on transgender athletes.

Passing both legislative houses in the state on lopsided votes, Senate Bill 160 would ban “male students” from playing on public school and college sports teams designated for women or girls. The bill allows co-ed teams and women and girls to play on men’s or boys’ teams.

Kelly said in a statement to Fox affiliate WDAF-TV that the bill would hurt families and send the wrong message to companies considering doing business in Kansas.

Kansas Democratic Governor Laura Kelly vetoed a bill passed by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature that would have banned transgender female student-athletes from participating in women’s sports. Above, Kelly delivers the commencement address at an Emporia State University Constitution Day event for high school students in Emporia, Kansas on September 17, 2019.
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“We all want a fair and safe place where our children can play and compete,” she said. “However, this bill did not come from our schools’ pundits, our athletes, or the Kansas State High School Activities Association. It came from politicians trying to score political points.”

Transgender athletes have become a hotly contested issue and a flashpoint of culture warfare. Some sports fans, conservatives and others have argued that it is unfair to allow transgender athletes, who were born biologically male, to compete in women’s sports. Fifteen Republican-led states have passed restrictions on transgender athletes, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican who is challenging Kelly’s 2022 re-election bid, say it Twitter that he would have signed the bill, calling it “common sense”.

“Men shouldn’t compete in women’s sports,” he said.

Other governors have vetoed similar legislation. Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb last month struck down his state’s bill, saying there was a lack of evidence the government needed to intervene to ensure fairness in girls’ sports.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox became the second Republican governor to veto a proposed ban this year, saying it would highlight and stigmatize the state’s four transgender children participating in school sports .

Last year, Arkansas GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed a ban that was later overturned by the Legislature.

Kelly also vetoed the Parents’ Bill of Rights, a law that would give parents the right to inspect classroom materials and issue a challenge to remove them from class, calling it “diverse.”

“We know that the involvement of parents in their child’s education has a huge impact on the outcome,” she said in a statement to WDAF-TV. “This bill, however, is about politics, not parents.”

Newsweek reached out to Kelly and Republican legislative leaders in the state for comment.

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