Kansas legislature passes bill barring transgender athletes from women's sports

Nick Bromberg
·3 min read

The Kansas state legislature passed a bill Friday that prevents transgender athletes from playing in women's sports. It seems unlikely that the bill will become law, however.  

Senate Bill 208 requires that “athletic teams or sports designated for females, women or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex.” It would apply to “interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic teams or sports that are sponsored by a public elementary or secondary school, a postsecondary educational institution … or any school or other postsecondary educational institution whose students or teams compete against a public school.”

Simply put, transgender student-athletes in the state would be unable to play women's sports if they were born as males. You can read the bill in full here.

“We're looking at opening up a doorway that tells trans kids they are not welcome in any way, shape or form,” Rep. Stephanie Byers (D) said via the AP. “It's coming through our schools — the one place where everybody should feel welcome and appreciated."

Sen. Renee Erickson, one of the bill's sponsors, said it was designed to "protect" female athletes.

The bill is titled the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act" and was introduced by Republicans in the state senate. The GOP has majorities in both the Kansas House and the Kansas Senate and a veto-proof majority in both chambers. The Kansas legislature has overriden vetoes by Gov. Laura Kelly (D) before.

Kelly has not taken a stance on the bill but the Democratic Party is opposed to anti-transgender bills and laws. One of President Joe Biden's first actions in January was an executive order regarding transgender athletes. 

But if Kelly vetoes this bill, the vote counts on Friday mean that the Kansas legislature doesn't have the votes to override the bill. 

Two-thirds of each chamber is required to override a veto. Republicans hold 29 of the 40 seats in the state senate and 86 of the 125 seats in the house. Friday, the Senate approved the bill 26-11 and the House approved it 76-43. Those yes vote totals don't meet the two-thirds requirement. 

Kansas could be 4th state in 2021 to pass law

On the small chance the bill becomes law, Kansas would be at least the fourth state in the United States to create a law limiting transgender athlete participation in 2021. Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee enacted similar laws in March, and Idaho passed a similar law in 2020. All four of those states have Republican governors who signed the bills into law. Kansas' law would be the first to go into effect after a veto override if Kelly would veto the bill and the legislature got the votes needed to override it. 

The law would also have minimal application in the state of Kansas. According to the AP, the Kansas state athletics association is aware of only five transgender athletes competing across Kansas and a transgender athlete has not won a title in the state. The state of Kansas has a population of just over 2.9 million. 

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