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Kansas legislators uphold governor's vetos on controversial bills

Kansas legislators uphold governor's vetos on controversial bills
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed two bills earlier this month that she described as being were more political than substantive. Photo courtesy of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly/Website

April 29 (UPI) -- Kansas state lawmakers have upheld Gov. Laura Kelly's veto of two controversial Republican-led bills to ban transgender athletes from competing in girls sports and allow parents to object to any school material they deem is contrary to their beliefs.

Both bills died Thursday in the state's House as they failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to overturn Kelly's vetos.

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"Compassion wins today," Democratic state Rep. Brandon Woodard tweeted.

Kelly vetoed the bills earlier this month after they were sent to her desk amid a push by Republican-controlled states to pass similar legislation.

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Senate Bill 160, dubbed the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, sought to bar transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams at all public, secondary and post-secondary institutions, and was passed by both the state Senate and House earlier this month.

Kelly had object to the bill, stating both Republican and Democratic governors have veto similar bills that had reached their desks as they are harmful to students, families, and businesses.

She said everyone wants sports to be fair but accused the bill of not being based on the opinions of experts but on those of politicians seeking to score political points.

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"This bill would also undoubtedly harm our ability to attract and retain businesses," she said on vetoing the bill earlier this month. "It would send a signal to prospective companies that Kansas is more focused on unnecessary and divisive legislation than strategic, pro-growth lawmaking."

Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest LGBTQ advocacy group, thanked Kelly for the veto and the legislators for supporting it.

"This harmful legislation has no place in Kansas or any other state," Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at HRC, said in a statement. "Kansans deserve better than legislators who bully transgender youth -- youth who pose no threat and just want to play sports with their friends."

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The other bill that died Thursday was Senate Bill 58, the so-called the Parents Bill of Rights, that would have allowed parents to challenge school curriculum for removal if they deem material to cause harm to their child or impair "the parent's firmly held beliefs, values or principles."

In vetoing it, Kelly had said parents should play a role in their children's education, but this bill "is about politics, not parents."

"Over 100 Kansas parents testified against this bill. It would create more division in our schools and would be costly," she said. "Money that should be spent in the classroom would end up being spent in the courtroom."

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