Kansas passes trans bathroom bill; Arkansas OKs own version

A Kansas bill to impose some of the nation’s broadest bathroom restrictions and ban transgender people from changing the name or gender on their driver’s licenses cleared the Legislature by margins Tuesday that suggest backers could override the Democratic Governor’s expected veto.

Kansas Senate voted 28-12 with one vote more than a two-thirds majority needed to overturn any veto, giving final passage to an earlier House-passed version and sending it to Gov. Laura Kelly. Both chambers have Republican supermajorities.

The measure deals with bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities, and defines “sex” as “either male or female, at birth,” a move LGBTQ+-rights advocates said would legally erase transgender people and deny recognition to non-binary, gender fluid and gender non-conforming people.

The final vote came less than two hours after Arkansas lawmakers sent Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders a bathroom bill after scaling it back following complaints it would have criminalized transgender people for simply using a public restroom. The Arkansas bill would allow transgender people to be charged with a misdemeanor for using bathrooms or changing rooms associated with their identities if cisgendered minors are present, but only if they enter it “for the purpose of arousing or gratifying a sexual desire.”

Both state’s measures are among several hundred aimed at rolling back LGBTQ rights pursued by Republicans this year across the United States. The wave of legislation has angered and vexed LGBTQ-rights activists, trangender people and parents of transgender children.

“I am what they are scared of,” Ian Benalcazar, a 13-year-old northeastern Kansas transgender boy said during 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.”

Arkansas is among seven states that have banned transgender students from using school bathrooms and locker rooms associated with their gender identities, its law taking effect this summer. However, the Kansas measure also covers prisons, jails, rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and other spaces “where biology, safety or privacy” prompt separate facilities for men and women.

The Kansas bill defines male and female based on a person’s physical anatomy at birth.

The measure now headed to Kelly would declare that legally, “sex” means “biological” sex, “either male or female, at birth.” And it adds, “important governmental objectives of protecting the health, safety and privacy” justify separate spaces for men and women like bathrooms and locker rooms.

“This will protect women’s spaces currently reserved for women and and men’s spaces,” said House Health Committee Chair Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican who voted for the bill.

Supporters framed their measure as a proposed “Women’s Bill of Rights,” similar to measures introduced in Congress and at least five other states. It was based on language circulated by several 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 cases of transgender girls or women using facilities with cisgendered girls or women.

“People are starting to pay attention,” Masterson said.

Kansas House members included provisions requiring accommodations for some intersex people born with chromosomes, genitalia, or reproductive organs not associated with typical definitions for males or females.

The House vote last month was 83-41, one vote shy of the two-thirds majority necessary to override any veto, but one conservative Republican likely to support the bill was absent.

Kelly vetoed a proposed ban on transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports this year for the third straight year. Republican lawmakers in Kansas also are pursuing a bill aimed at stopping gender-affirming care for minors, something at least 11 states have done.

The Governor promised LGBTQ youth lobbying lawmakers last week that she would “protect your rights” and “veto any bill that aims to harm or discriminate against you.”

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.




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