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Dem. governor halts Kansas effort to protect women’s sports; override falls one vote short

Conservative legislators have failed to override Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a bill to protect women’s sports in the state’s schools.

The Senate vote on Monday to override Kelly was 26-14, leaving the measure one vote short of the necessary two-thirds majority. The result blocked an attempt to override in the House. The outcome was in doubt until the only Democrat to waver on voting against the override, Sen. David Haley, of Kansas City, cast his no vote.

Haley had been wavering on the issue for some time, and the issue that “tipped it” for him was that sports bodies such as the NCAA would avoid scheduling tournament games in Kansas.

“My concern is the first transgender girl or women has the competitive physical advantage to overcome a biologically born woman and that, in fact, there are some repercussions,” Haley said.

The Bill, also known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, had originally passed through both the House and the Senate but was vetoed by Governor Kelly on April 22.

More than 20 states have considered such proposals this year, as Republican lawmakers have pressed the issue. Idaho enacted such a law last year, and bans were enacted this year in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia. Florida lawmakers passed a bill, and South Dakota’s governor issued an executive order.

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Kelly called the Kansas measure “regressive,” said it would send a message that Kansas was not a welcoming place and predicted it would hurt the state’s attempts to recruit businesses.

The bill’s supporters said they were trying to protect fair competition in women’s sports, prevent bullying of women athletes, and preserve hard-won opportunities for female athletes, such as college scholarships.

“We’re going to keep working on this issue,” Director of Advocacy for Family Policy Lines of Kansas, Brittany Jones emphasized. “We’re going to keep talking to leadership in both chambers, and we’re going to let voters know how their legislators voted today and what the governor has done,”

The vote in Kansas came two days after Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic decathlon champion and reality television figure who came out as a transgender woman in 2015, said she opposes transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports as a “question of fairness.”

It is likely similar legislation will be brought up again in Kansas, but perhaps not until Kansas has a new governor.

The proposed ban is likely to be an issue in the 2022 governor’s race, when Kelly seeks a second term. The top two Republican candidates, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and former Gov. Jeff Colyer, have said they would have signed the measure.

Kelly ran as a centrist in 2018 but is now being called a liberal.

“It shows her true, far-left leanings,” said state Sen. Renee Erickson, a Wichita Republican. “I think if we make it about what it truly is — it’s protecting those opportunities for girls — that those are Kansas values and that at the end of the day, it will hurt the governor politically.”

–Lee Hartman | Metro Voice News

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