Attempt to ban transgender athletes from school sports fails in Kansas Senate

By: - May 3, 2021 2:30 pm

Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, expressed conflicting views on the proposed ban on transgender athletes before casting the decisive vote in opposition of the bill. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Senate-led charge to ban transgender athletes from school sports crumbled Monday when an effort to override the governor fell one vote shy of the required two-thirds majority.

The session-long drama ended in a rambling speech from Sen. David Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City who tried to avoid voting but was forced to do so through a parliamentary procedure.

“This is probably the most difficult vote I’ve had to take,” Haley said.

With the vote stalled at 26-13, one shy of total needed for an override, Haley joined Democrats and three Republicans who opposed the measure as a discriminatory attack on a vulnerable population.

“David Haley can’t win this discussion, this debate, because I do fully understand 50-50 where we are,” Haley said. “Having said that, I join the minority in this particular vote.”

Senate Bill 55 would have required participation in K-12 and college sports to correspond with an individual’s gender as assigned at birth. The legislation was written, defended, and promoted by faith-based anti-LGBTQ groups across the country this year.

Senate Republicans who supported the bill contend the legislation has nothing to do with discrimination and was merely an attempt to preserve fairness in competition.

Senate President Ty Masterson pointed to recent remarks by Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete, who voiced support for the controversial model bills. Masterson also renewed claims that he was being bullied by the NCAA and businesses who threatened to direct economic activity away from Kansas.

“Fairness for my girls is not for sale,” Masterson said. “It shouldn’t be controversial.”

Sen. Brenda Dietrich, R-Topeka, Sen. John Doll, R-Garden City, and Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Wichita, joined the chamber’s 11 Democrats in voting against the bill.

Because the Senate attempted the override first, and failed, the House didn’t take action.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the 2021 and 2022 Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is a lifelong Kansan.