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As Anti-Trans Bills Advance, Kansas Governor Implies Veto Likely

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly

"We don't want to go down that road," Democrat Laura Kelly says as an anti-trans bill awaits her action and similar measures advance in other states.

As anti-transgender legislation continues to advance in several states, Kansas's governor has indicated she's likely to veto a bill on its way to her.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat in a state where Republicans control both chambers of the legislature, said Monday that she hasn't seen the bill, which would bar trans girls and women from competing on female sports teams at the state's public schools, colleges, and universities, TV station KSN reports. Until she reads it, she won't say definitely whether she'll veto it, but she said it doesn't sound good to her.

"I can tell you that we know from past experience not only what this will do, how it will make these kids feel, and how it might exacerbate some of the mental health issues that we're already seeing," she said. "But we also know just from a business sense how we don't want to go down that road. We know that when, for instance, North Carolina passed an anti-trans bill a few years ago, overnight they lost $400 million in convention business. ... It probably totaled up into the billions of dollars of businesses who decided not to make new capital investments in their state because of that. Kansas doesn't need to be passing any sorts of anti-progressive or really regressive legislation."

In one of her first actions after taking office in 2019, Kelly showed her allyship by restoring LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections for state employees.

North Carolina may have learned some lessons. It has repealed most provisions of that infamous law, which restricted trans people's restroom usage in government buildings and kept cities and counties from enacting or enforcing LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws. Now its Republican Senate leader says a bill to ban gender-confirmation procedures for people under 21 has no chance of passing this year.

"We do not see a pathway to Senate Bill 514 becoming law," Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, said Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. The bill will not even receive a vote on the Senate floor, Ryan added.

If both houses of the legislature passed the bill, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, would almost certainly have vetoed it. It's even harsher than most bills of this nature, as most of them would ban the procedures only up to age 18. Arkansas is the only state that has adopted such a ban so far, up to age 18, with lawmakers overriding Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto.

But a trans-exclusionary sports bill is still pending in the North Carolina legislature. Ryan wouldn't say whether Berger supports it, according to the AP.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee House of Representatives Monday approved a new spin on "bathroom bills." The legislation states that it offers a "right of action"-- that is, the right to sue -- if someone "encounters a person of the opposite sex in a multi-occupancy restroom or changing facility designated for the person's sex and located in a public school building" or "is required by the public school to share sleeping quarters with the opposite sex, unless the persons are members of the same family" during a school-sponsored activity. And "opposite sex" includes trans people. The bill now goes to the state's Senate, which is expected to vote this week, the AP reports.

Tennessee's Republican governor, Bill Lee, has already signed a trans-exclusionary sports bill into law, and he is likely to sign legislation that would require school districts to notify parents of any curricula including LGBTQ+ content and let parents opt their children out of it without repercussions.

And the Oklahoma House of Representatives Tuesday approved a trans sports ban by a vote of 73-19, with most Republicans voting for it and most Democrats against, The Oklahoman reports. It goes to the state's Senate for action as well.

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