Kansas Gov. Kelly Vetoes Transgender Sports Ban, Parental Bill of Rights

Kansas Gov. Kelly Vetoes Transgender Sports Ban, Parental Bill of Rights Laura Kelly Kansas Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly. (AP/John Hanna)

By Jay Clemons | Monday, 18 April 2022 04:21 PM

Kansas Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed a pair of Republican-supported bills Friday that had been condemned by LGBT advocates as discriminatory against LGBT people within the state.

However, the vetoes might not be the final word on both cases.

In the first bill, known as the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act," transgender women and girls would be prohibited from competing on school sports teams aligning with their gender identity.

The bill would have covered a range of elementary-school pupils to college athletes.

"Athletic teams or sports designated for females, women or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex," the bill stated.

In her veto response, Governor Kelly wrote: "We all want a fair and safe place for our kids to play and compete. However, this bill didn't come from the experts at our schools, our athletes, or the Kansas State High School Activities Association. It came from politicians trying to score political points."

By including college athletics in the first proposal, the language of the Kansas bill might run contrary to NCAA rules, potentially threatening the state universities' participation in NCAA sports and championship events.

Similar bills have been proposed in Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Idaho, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida.

Last week, the Kentucky state legislators voted to override Gov. Andy Beshear's veto on the state's own transgender athlete ban, stemming from a situation in March, when University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines accused the NCAA of failing to protect cisgender women like herself, arguing that "biological males should not be competing against women."

Derek Schmidt, the attorney general for Kansas, echoed a similar sentiment regarding how women's competitions should be administered.

"Men should not be competing in women's sports," said Schmidt, who's planning to run for Kansas governor this fall. In his Twitter post, the Republican added, "Governor Kelly today vetoed (for the second time) a bill to implement that commonsense principle. I would have signed the bill into law."

The issue of transgender athletes competing in women's sports garnered plenty of national attention in March.

Transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas won the 500-yard final in the NCAA Championship, defeating University of Virginia freshman Emma Weyant by 1.75 seconds.

According to the New York Post, Thomas (formerly known as William Thomas) had previously swam for three years on the U-Penn's men's team, before transitioning and then sitting out a year to undergo testosterone suppression treatment.

In lieu of Thomas' controversial national title, some have begun questioning whether it is fair to allow an athlete who was born a biological male to compete against biological women.

The NCAA issued new regulations about transgender athletes this season, essentially leaving it up to individual sports to decide eligibility.

The second proposal vetoed by Governor Kelly, the "Parental Bill of Rights," would have allowed parents to challenge school-implemented learning materials that were inconsistent with their personal beliefs.

Kansas is reportedly one of eight states pondering (or approving) similar legislation, essentially taking Florida's lead from two weeks ago.

Within this bill, Kelly opposes giving Kansas parents greater authority to challenge learning materials inconsistent with their "firmly held beliefs, values or principles," which LGBTQ+ advocates have previously said would likely target hot-button topics, such as sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

A primary reason for the second veto? By Kelly's estimate, the bill would have come at an exorbitant cost for Kansas taxpayers.

"Money that should be spent in the classroom would end up being spent in the courtroom," Kelly wrote.

Similar to Kentucky's actions, the GOP leadership in Kansas has pledged to seek overrides for both bills, once the session resumes next week.