Kansas passes ‘bathroom bill’ targeting transgender people

The GOP-controlled Kansas Legislature passed a bill Tuesday that targets transgender people – imposing bathroom restrictions and preventing them from altering the name or gender on their driver’s licenses.

The state 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.

Both chambers have Republican supermajorities and the margins suggest that backers could override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s expected veto.

The sweeping legislation prohibits transgender people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identities – forcing them to use facilities that correspond with the sex, either male or female, they were born with.

The bill also would prevent transgender people from changing both driver’s licenses and birth certificates, but the state is under a 2019 federal court order to allow birth certificate changes.

LGBTQ+-rights advocates have warned that the measure would legally erase transgender people and deny recognition to non-binary, gender fluid and gender non-conforming people.

A protester outside the Kansas Statehouse holds a sign after a rally for transgender rights on the Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31.

The activists also said that having a driver’s license or birth certificate confirm a trans person’s identity is not only important by itself, it also can prevent harassment.

“I am what they are scared of,” Ian Benalcazar, a 13-year-old 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,” Ian added.

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, left, R-Andover, confers with Senate health committee Chair Beverly Gossage, right, R-Eudora, ahead of a vote on a broad transgender bathroom bill, Tuesday.
Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson confers with Senate health committee Chair Beverly Gossage ahead of a vote on a broad transgender bathroom bill on Tuesday.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is expected to veto the bill.

The measure would declare that legally, “sex” means “biological” sex, “either male or female, at birth.”

It adds that “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 men’s spaces,” said House Health Committee Chair Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican who voted for the legislation.

More than 100 people, many of them transgender youth, march around the Kansas Statehouse on the annual Transgender Day of Visibility.
More than 100 people, many of them transgender youth, march around the Kansas Statehouse on the annual Transgender Day of Visibility.

The final vote came shortly after Arkansas lawmakers sent GOP Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders a bathroom bill after scaling it back amid complaints it would have criminalized transgender people for simply using a public restroom.

The Arkansas bill would allow trans 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 states’ measures are among hundreds pursued by Republicans across the US to roll back LGBTQ rights – angering LGBTQ-rights activists, transgender people and parents of trans kids.

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican, said lawmakers want to protect families amid what people see as a small but growing number of cases of trans girls or women using facilities with cisgendered girls or women.

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

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

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.

Last week, Kelly promised LGBTQ youth who were lobbying lawmakers that she would “protect your rights” and “veto any bill that aims to harm or discriminate against you.”

For the third straight year, the governor has vetoed a proposed ban on transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports.

Eight states have laws restricting bathroom access for adults on the basis of transgender identity, while 10 others do so only for students in K-12 schools, according to USA Today.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 400 anti-LGBTQ bills are being tracked this year.

With Post Wires