Kansas bill to bar male-born athletes from female sports dies after veto override fails

For the second year in a row, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed a Fairness in Women’s Sports bill, and once again, Republican legislators were unable to muster the votes to override her veto.

House Republicans came up short Thursday on a 81-41 vote, just three votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the Democratic governor’s April 15 veto of Senate Bill 160. Three Republicans broke with the party to support the veto.

Two days earlier, the Senate successfully overrode the veto on a 28-10 vote. Both chambers must register two-thirds majorities to upend gubernatorial vetoes.

The bill, which applied to both K-12 and collegiate sports, would have barred “students of the male sex” from participating on female athletic teams, as defined by “biological sex.”

The House also fell short in its effort to override the governor’s veto of a parental bill of rights measure giving parents greater access to school curriculum and materials. The vote was 72-50, well below the 84 votes needed to overturn the veto.

Ms. Kelly faces a tough reelection fight this year against Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the presumptive GOP nominee, who rebuked her after she vetoed the women’s sports bill.

“Men should not be competing in women’s sports. Governor Kelly today vetoed (for the second time) a bill to implement that commonsense principle. I would have signed the bill into law,” tweeted Mr. Schmidt.

Cathryn Oakley, Human Rights Campaign state legislative director, thanked the governor and legislators for rejecting the measure.

“This harmful legislation has no place in Kansas or any other state,” said Ms. Oakley. “Kansans deserve better than legislators who bully transgender youth – youth who pose no threat and just want to play sports with their friends.”

Among those who spoke out against the bill Thursday was Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Byers, who transitioned from male to female in 2014, according to Equality Kansas.

“Wrestle with your consciences, decide how you want to vote with this. Decide how you want to commit to the fact that trans women are not really women, trans girls are not really girls, or you’re going to say that trans girls are girls, trans women are women,” Ms. Byers said, according to the Kansas Reflector. “This is not a lifestyle. This is my existence.”

Last week, Republican state Rep. Cheryl Helmer drew headlines for saying in an email that she objected to sharing a restroom with a “huge transgender female.”

Fifteen states have passed laws in recent years barring male-born athletes from female sports. In two of those states, Kentucky and Utah, the bills became law after the legislatures overrode gubernatorial vetoes.

Another red state, Indiana, is expected to hold an override vote at the May 24 veto session. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed March 21 a bill barring male-born athletes from girls’ scholastic sports.

Federal judges have blocked enforcement of the bills pending the outcome of legal challenges in Idaho and West Virginia.

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