For the third year in a row, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has vetoed an anti-transgender sports bill — but this year legislators may override her.
In her veto message on House Bill 2238, Kelly said the regulations of the Kansas High School Activities Association are sufficient to ensure fairness in sports.
“As I’ve said before, we all want a fair and safe place for our kids to play and compete,” she said in a statement Friday. “That’s why I support the Kansas State High School Activities Association, which was set up to ensure nobody has an unfair advantage on the playing field. The Legislature should let the Association do its job.
“Let’s be clear about what this bill is all about – politics. It won’t increase any test scores. It won’t help any kids read or write. It won’t help any teachers prepare our kids for the real world. Here’s what this bill would actually do: harm the mental health of our students. That’s exactly why Republican governors have joined me in vetoing similar bills.
“This bill would also reverse the progress we’ve made in recruiting businesses and creating jobs. It would send a signal to prospective companies that Kansas is more focused on unnecessary and divisive legislation than becoming a place where young people want to work and raise a family.”
HB 2238 would have barred trans girls and women from competing on female sports teams in K-12 schools, clubs, and public colleges. There are only three trans athletes participating in school sports in the state, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports.
Legislators have 30 days from the time they receive Kelly’s official veto notice to attempt an override. “Republicans have more than the two-thirds majorities in both chambers needed to override a veto, but in 2021 and 2022, a few GOP moderates voted against overriding Kelly,” the Associated Press notes. “The House and Senate votes on this year’s bill suggest supporters could have just enough votes to prevail.”
So far, 18 states have restricted trans participation on school sports. This year, Kansas has seen the introduction of not only the sports bill but a variety of other anti-trans measures, including a ban on gender-affirming care for youth and a “bathroom bill.”
The Human Rights Campaign praised Kelly’s veto. “Anti-equality legislators in Kansas have spent years repeatedly targeting a small group of already marginalized young people who want to play sports for the same reason all students do — to learn sportsmanship, self-discipline and teamwork, and to have fun,” said a statement from Cathryn Oakley, HRC state legislative director and senior counsel. “The legislature has made it clear that this discrimination is what it stands for, despite every piece of evidence showing that there is no rational reason underpinning this legislation.
“In contrast, Governor Kelly treated Kansas students with dignity and respect by refusing to allow children and school athletics to be treated as a political game. By vetoing this discriminatory legislation she not only took a stand against discrimination, but she also saved Kansas taxpayers the expense of defending this litigation in court, as other states have had to do. Transgender kids are kids — they deserve every opportunity that any kid does. All students, and all Kansans, are better off because of Governor Kelly's decision today.”