TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’ Democratic governor on Thursday vetoed Republican legislation aimed at ending gender-affirming care for children and teens, and another, sweeping GOP proposal for preventing transgender people from using bathrooms and other public facilities associated with their gender identities.
Gov. Laura Kelly’s actions highlighted how her Republican-leaning state has become a fiercely contested battleground as GOP lawmakers across the U.S. target LGBTQ+ rights through several hundred proposals. Kelly narrowly won reelection in November, but the the Legislature has GOP supermajorities and conservative leaders who’ve made rolling back transgender rights a priority.
At least 14 states with GOP-led legislatures have enacted laws against gender-affirming care for minors, including North Dakota as of Wednesday. At least seven have bathroom laws, mostly focusing on schools. Earlier this month, Kansas lawmakers overrode Kelly’s veto of a ban on female transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports, making Kansas among at least 21 states with such a law.
The Kansas bathroom bill would have applied to bathrooms and locker rooms outside schools, as well as to prisons, jails, rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters. Because it also sought to define “sex” as “either male or female, at birth,” transgender people wouldn’t have been able to change the gender marker on their driver’s license, though a 2019 federal court decree still would have allowed them to change their birth certificates.
Advocates of LGBTQ+ rights see the measure as legally erasing transgender people and denying recognition to non-binary, gender fluid or gender non-conforming people.
“I am not going to go back to those days of hiding in the closet,” Justin Brace, executive director of Transgender Kansas, said during a recent transgender rights rally outside the Statehouse. “We are in a fight for our lives, literally.”
Kelly’s vetoes Thursday were in keeping with public promises to block any measure she views as discriminating against LGBTQ+ people. She also has argued that measures rolling back LGBTQ+ rights would hurt the state’s efforts to attract businesses.
The bathroom bill appeared to have the two-thirds majorities needed to override a veto when it passed earlier this month, though the margin was close in the House. The bill on gender-affirming care was well short in the House.