Kansas has banned transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports, after lawmakers in both chambers of the legislature, in which Republicans have supermajorities, overrode a veto from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
Legislators voted on Wednesday to overturn the veto of the legislation, which was Kelly’s third veto of such a bill in three years. It bans transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports from kindergarten through college.
Republicans in the state said the law would protect the fairness of women’s sports, arguing it upholds the protections handed down in Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bars discrimination based on sex in educational programs.
“The Fairness in Women’s Sports act protects the rights of female athletes in the state by requiring that female student athletic teams only include members who are biologically female,” Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins (R) said in a statement after overriding the veto. “House Republicans are united in our commitment to defending the intention of Title IX.”
Kelly said the move by Republicans to override her veto “breaks my heart.”
“It breaks my heart,” Kelly said, according to NPR’s affiliate station in Kansas City. “I’m sorry that they distracted themselves with this really awful bill.”
The move to ban transgender athletes from women’s sports puts Kansas in a growing line of states that have pursued such action. At least 18 other states have banned transgender athlete participation in some fashion, according to the Movement Advancement Project.
It is part of a wider Republican backlash against transgenderism. Along with a ban on athletic participation, states have also started to ban access to gender-affirming care for minors. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday signed a bill that banned gender-affirming care for minors, including access to certain medicines and surgeries.
The veto override by Republicans in Kansas caps a three-year battle to try to enact the ban. Kelly axed similar legislation in the last two years, which Republicans in the legislature were unable to override.