A Kansas bill to impose some of the nation’s broadest restrictions on access to public bathrooms and ban transgender people from changing the name or gender on their driver’s licenses have cleared the state legislature by margins that suggest backers could override the Democratic governor’s expected veto.
The 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 Governor Laura Kelly. Both chambers have Republican supermajorities.
The measure deals with bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities, and strictly 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.
“I am what they are scared of,” Ian Benalcazar, a 13-year-old north-eastern 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.”
The Kansas measure also covers prisons, jails, rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and other spaces where, it stated “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 the 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.
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.
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”.
Doctors say reproductive anatomy at birth does not always align with strict definitions of sex and that binary views of sexual identity can miss biological nuances.
Carson Rapp, a Wichita, Kansas-area 15-year-old who identifies as bigender or embracing “both more masculine and more feminine traits”, said expressing one’s gender identity does not harm others.
“Why stop people from doing it if they’re just being themselves and having fun and expressing themselves?” Carson said during an LGBTQ-youth lobbying day.
LGBTQ-rights advocates say having a driver’s license or birth certificate confirm a transgender person’s identity is important by itself but also can prevent daily hassles 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 birth certificate changes.
Carson’s father, Will Rapp, called the bill “pretty awful” legislation.
“I would like to think that if they were to get to know these young people, that would change their hearts, and we will always have hope for that,” he said.
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