TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) — A Kansas bill that would ban transgender people from using public restrooms or changing their name or gender on their driver’s license passed Tuesday by margins of the state-controlled Legislature. Republican Party, suggesting that supporters could override long-awaited Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. veto.
The state Senate voted 28-12 with one more vote than the two-thirds majority it would take to overturn any veto, giving final approval to an earlier version of the legislation passed by the House and sending it to the governor.
The measure deals with bathrooms, changing rooms and other facilities, and defines “sex” as “either male or female, at birth,” a measure that LGBTQ+ rights advocates said would legally erase transgender people and deny recognition. to non-binary and gender fluid people. and gender non-conforming people.
The sweeping transgender bill, one of the largest of its kind in the nation, is among several hundred measures aimed at rolling back LGBTQ rights pursued by Republicans this year across the United States.
Seven states elsewhere have enacted laws barring transgender students from using school bathrooms and locker rooms associated with their gender identities, most recently Kentucky. However, the Kansas measure also covers prisons, jails, rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and other spaces “where biology, safety or privacy” require separate facilities for men and women. Define male and female based on a person’s physical anatomy at birth.
“I am what they fear,” said Ian Benalcazar, a 13-year-old transgender boy from Lawrence, in northeast Kansas, at a recent LGBTQ rights rally outside the Statehouse. “I am a human being and I deserve to be treated as such, and I deserve to be happy. You shouldn’t have to argue about this.
Supporters of the Kansas bill framed their measure as a proposed “Women’s Bill of Rights,” similar to bills introduced in Congress and in at least five other states. It was based on language spread by various national anti-trans groups.
Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican, said lawmakers are trying to protect families amid what people see as a small but growing number of transgender girls or women using facilities with cisgender girls or women.
“People are starting to pay attention,” Masterson said. “There have been enough problems that various members of our body are interested in finding solutions.”
A state Senate vote Tuesday approved a version of the bill passed by the House last week, moving it forward to the governor’s desk.
House members included provisions requiring accommodations for some intersex people, who are born with chromosomes, genitalia, or reproductive organs not associated with typical definitions of male or female.
The House vote last month was 83-41, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto, but a conservative Republican likely to support the bill was absent.
Kelly vetoed a proposed ban on transgender athletes in women’s and women’s sports this year for the third year in a row. Republican lawmakers in Kansas are also seeking a bill aimed at stopping gender-affirming care for minors, something at least 11 states have done.
The governor promised LGBTQ youth lobbying legislators last week that she would “protect your rights” and “veto any bill that aims to harm or discriminate against you.”
The measure now directed at Kelly would state that legally, “sex” means “biological” sex, “whether male or female, at birth.” She says that females have a reproductive system “developed to produce eggs,” while males have one “developed to fertilize eggs.”
The measure says having separate spaces for men and women, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, is justified by “important government objectives to protect health, safety, and privacy.”
“This will protect the women’s spaces currently reserved for women and the men’s spaces currently reserved for men,” said House Health Committee Chair Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican, in explaining her “yes” vote on bill last week.
Doctors say reproductive anatomy at birth doesn’t always align with strict definitions of sex and that binary views of sexual identity can miss biological nuances.
Carson Rapp, a 15-year-old from the Wichita area who identifies as bigender or adopts “more masculine and more feminine traits,” said people who express their gender identity do not harm others.
“Why stop people from doing it if they’re just being themselves, having fun and expressing themselves?” Carson said during last week’s LGBTQ youth lobby day.
LGBTQ rights advocates say having a driver’s license or birth certificate confirming the identity of a transgender person is important in itself, but it can also prevent daily hassle or harassment. The bill’s language would prevent transgender people from changing both driver’s licenses and birth certificates, but Kansas is under a 2019 federal court order to allow changes to birth certificates.
Carson’s father, Will Rapp, Kansas managing director for GLSEN, an LGBTQ youth advocacy group, said it’s disheartening to see lawmakers go after what he sees as “pretty horrible” legislation.
But he added: “I would like to think that if they got to meet these young people, it would change their hearts, and we will always have hope in that.”
Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/apjdhanna
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