A series of anti-transgender bills were debated on the Senate floor as lawmakers attempted to override Gov. Laura Kelly's vetoes of these bills. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — The Senate on Wednesday revived a wide-ranging transgender bathroom ban, despite concerns that the ban, called a “women’s bill of rights,” is overly intrusive and doesn’t actually give women more rights.
Lawmakers in both chambers also successfully overruled Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a county jail bill that bars transgender and intersex women from occupying female-specific spaces in jails.
“Women’s bill of rights”
Senators successfully overturned Kelly’s veto of Senate Bill 180 Wednesday, voting 28-12 to pass the bill back to the House for a final vote. To override Kelly’s veto, 84 votes are needed in the House and 27 in the Senate.
The legislation bans individuals who are born without the ability to produce eggs for reproduction from using women’s restrooms, locker rooms and other gender-specific areas.
The bill applies to athletics, prison facilities, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, locker rooms, restrooms and “other areas where biology, safety or privacy are implicated that result in separate accommodations.”
The bill also classifies people with developmental differences, including those who are intersex, as disabled. These people would be barred from women’s spaces and given separate facilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The House originally voted 83-41 for the legislation, with the Senate concurring 28-12 to move the bill to Kelly’s desk. Kelly vetoed SB 180 Thursday along with several other bills targeting transgender Kansans, citing concerns about its broad scope.
The bill is likely to be challenged on constitutional grounds if enacted. Similar legislation has been debated in other states, such as Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, Iowa, Utah, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma, backed by national faith-based and conservative organizations.
Legislation that inserts portions of the “women’s bill of rights” into county jail procedures was successfully resurrected by the Legislature and passed into law. Senators overruled Kelly’s veto 31-9 and lawmakers in the House passed the measure 87-37.
SB 228 provides reimbursement to counties for the costs of housing people awaiting examination, evaluation or treatment for competency. The legislation is meant to help overburdened counties where jails are responsible for housing mentally unstable patients while they wait for hospital beds to open up.
Senators amended the original bill to clarify men and women should always be kept in separate rooms, defining females as those born with the ability to produce eggs for reproduction and males as those born with “biological reproductive systems” meant to fertilize these eggs.
Critics say this provision creates problems for transgender women and intersex people, and is overly burdensome to jails.
Sen. Ethan Corson, a Prairie Village Democrat, said he was disappointed by the constant insertion of culture war rhetoric into unrelated bills by senators.
“It frustrates me that we can’t pass a simple bill to modernize our county jail system without injecting ourselves into unnecessary culture wars,” Corson said.
Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, echoed Corson’s message.
“This bill got caught up in culture wars,” Carmichael said. “This bill got caught up in a desire to make life as unpleasant for transgender Kansans as possible.”
The Senate narrowly allowed Kelly’s veto of a bill essentially banning gender-affirming care for Kansans under the age of 18 to stand, with 26 voting in favor of overriding the veto and 14 against.
SB 26 would allow for civil suits against doctors who provided gender-affirming care for those under age 18. It would also revoke the licenses of physicians who offered this care, starting in July.
The bill blocks providing “testosterone to females,” “doses of estrogen to males,” and prescribing puberty-blocking medications to those under the required age, along with gender-transition surgery.
In his defense of the legislation, Sen. Mark Steffen, a Hutchinson Republican, said lawmakers, not parents, needed to have the final say on youths’ decisions to transition.
“Sometimes, unfortunately, we as a Legislature have to be the last line of defense when parents have lost the way, when a health care system has lost its way. It is never okay to mutilate a minor,” Steffen said.
Multiple health care organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have spoken against such legislation. Both of the organizations say banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors is damaging and not rooted in science.
Steffen said allowing children to choose gender-affirming care was a sign of “evil.”
“Only when confusion, chaos, frankly evil, reigns in society is this sort of occurrence allowed,” he added.
The House passed the bill 70-52 and the Senate sent the legislation to Kelly with a vote of 23-12.
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