Kansas House and Senate both pass legislation targeting transgender youth

House also passes parental bill of rights allowing parents to remove children from class

By: and - February 23, 2023 11:06 am
Barb Wasinger

Rep. Barb Wasinger, R-Hays, led the charge for the latest attempt to ban transgender girls from playing sports with cisgender girls. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA —  The Kansas House passed parental rights legislation and a controversial transgender student athlete sports bill following months of debate and pushback from public education officials and advocates.

The transgender student athlete bill has been debated for the past three years, although education officials have said the bill’s scope is extremely narrow. Only two students in the state would be affected by the legislation, which passed the House 82-40 Thursday. 

The bill would limit participation in girls sports to students who were born with female reproductive systems. The Legislature adopted similar legislation in the past two sessions but couldn’t override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto.

During the Wednesday debate, Rep. Barb Wasinger, a Hays Republican promoting the bill, reasoned that men were stronger than women, and as such, women shouldn’t be made to compete with biological males. 

 “Biological men should not be competing against women,” Wasinger said during the Wednesday House hearing. 

A bill that would allow parents to pull their children out of any classes they found offensive without repercussions to the child’s grades was also passed out of the House Thursday, with a vote of 75-47. 

Rep. Rebecca Schmoe, an Ottawa Republican, introduced an amended form of the bill on the House floor Wednesday. Schmoe said she believed the legislation would benefit both teachers and parents, though education officials have said the legislation would hinder teachers in classrooms. 

“There’s actually zero language in this bill that addresses what a teacher teaches,” Schmoe said. “This bill is entirely about letting a parent decide what they are comfortable with their student hearing about in school from trusted adults. That’s all it is.”

The bill, House Bill 2236, stipulates that parents have the right to direct the education, upbringing and moral or religious training of their children. Under the bill, parents could remove their child from a lesson or class without harm to the student’s academic records if they objected to the material being taught.  

Educational materials specified under the bill would include reading material, websites, videos and textbooks.

If the material wasn’t included in the approved district curriculum or state educational standards, or if the material went against a parent’s beliefs or values, parents would have grounds to withdraw their children. Local school boards would be required to adopt policies and procedures to follow the bill, if passed.


Senate action

The Kansas Senate on Thursday also passed legislation targeting transgender youth.

Senate Bill 233, which passed 26-11, would effectively prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming care to minors. Physicians could face civil lawsuits or lose their licenses if they perform surgery or prescribe hormones or hormone blockers to align a child’s sex with their gender identity.

Senate Republicans likened such care to “genital mutilation” and harmful medical practices of the past.

“Child mutilation, excising healthy tissue, leaving kids sterile , will go down in the annals of medicine alongside lobotomy for depression,” said Sen. Mark Steffen, R-Hutchinson.

Steffen, a physician who is sponsoring another bill that would create criminal penalties for doctors who provide gender-affirming care to minors, also likened such care to the practice of removing a woman’s uterus to “keep them from being hysterical.”

Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, said the bill would force transgender youth who have been relying on doctors’ care for years to detransition. She said everyone should be able to seek care without government interference.

“We should want medical professionals to provide medically necessary care without fear or revocation of their medical license,” Sykes said. “Let’s stop attacking the transgender community, including their support systems, just because we don’t understand them.”

Sykes encouraged the Senate to show children that “we love them, we support them, and we trust their families, faith leaders and medical teams to make good, healthy decisions that result in radical self love.”

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.

Allison Kite
Allison Kite

Allison Kite is a data reporter for The Missouri Independent and Kansas Reflector, with a focus on the environment and agriculture. A graduate of the University of Kansas, she’s covered state government in both Topeka and Jefferson City, and most recently was City Hall reporter for The Kansas City Star.