Kansas Governor Laura Kelly vetoed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, S.B. 55. The bill documented biological male-female differences, and it would have required “interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic teams or sports that are sponsored by public educational institutions to be designated based on biological sex.”
The legislation passed the state’s Senate by a vote of 26 to 11, after being passed by the House by a vote of 76 to 43.
The Fairness Act prohibited state agencies, accrediting organizations and athletic associations from taking action against public educational institutions that maintain separate teams for female students. It also gave students deprived of athletic opportunities – by participants who compete as the opposite sex – the ability to file lawsuits against the organizations that allowed this.
The governor tweeted, “Today I vetoed the divisive transgender sports bill so we can keep our state welcoming to all Kansans and keep our state open for business.”
Kelly also posted a statement explaining her decision that said, “This legislation sends a devastating message that Kansas is not welcoming to all children and their families, including those who are transgender – who are already at a higher risk of bullying discrimination, and suicide.”
States that protect girls and women’s sports receive pressure from businesses, athletic associations like the NCAA, activist groups like the ACLU and LGBT organizations. The governor acknowledged this in her statement, saying “This bill would also undoubtedly harm our ability to attract and retain businesses. It would send a signal to prospective companies that Kansas is more focused on unnecessary and divisive legislation, than strategic, pro-growth law-making.”
Brittany Jones, director of advocacy at Family Policy Alliance Kansas, a Focus on the Family ally, called on the state legislature to overturn the veto. She said, “Governor Kelly has sided today with the NCAA, who can’t even ensure girls have decent locker rooms, and the radical Left, who are working to erase women.” Jones is referring to the NCAA controversy over disparities in the treatment of men’s and women’s basketball during its March championships.
Jones spoke about the real signal the state was sending, “Why would a family choose to move to Kansas if they knew their daughter’s opportunities were going to be stolen by a biological boy, no matter how hard that girl tried? If the Governor won’t stand up in this simple way, when will she stand up for girls?”
Governor Kelly’s veto followed on the heels of North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum’s striking down similar legislation, the Fairness in Girls Sports Bill, HB 1298, on Wednesday, April 21. That bill had passed the House by a margin of 69 to 25 and the Senate by a vote of 27 to 20.
In a veto message, Burgum said the state already has a level playing field, “North Dakota has fairness in girls and boys sports in large part because of the caring and thoughtful leadership of the North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) Board and its members. We have every confidence they will continue to ensure a level playing field for the more than 27,000 students who participate in North Dakota high school sports.”
Mark Jorritsma, president and executive director of the Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota, a Focus-allied organization, expressed frustration with the veto of “important legislation that would have ensured a fair playing field for female athletes in North Dakota.”
In an email, he wrote, “It was particularly disappointing, given the clear support for the bill by the Legislature and the strong support from across the state asking him to sign the bill into law.
“He has now ensured that North Dakota girls engaged in K-12 sports competitions will be easy targets for discrimination, simply because they are female. The clock on women’s rights in North Dakota was just set back 50 years.”
Libby Skarin, campaigns director for the ACLU of North Dakota, stated, “House Bill 1298 was never about leveling the playing field for student athletes. It was obvious from the beginning that this discriminatory legislation was about creating solutions to problems that don’t exist and, in the process, harming some of the most vulnerable people in our state. Nobody wins when politicians try to meddle in people’s lives like this. Nobody wins when we try to codify discrimination like this. We’re thrilled with Gov. Burgum’s decision to veto this bill.”
While Jorritsma urged the legislature to overturn the veto, the Senate failed to do so by a vote of 28 to 19; thirty-two votes were necessary for the override.
Similar bills have been proposed in more than 30 different state legislatures this year, with Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia passing this legislation. Idaho passed a Fairness in Women’s Sports Act in 2020. The ACLU is challenging that law in court.
Focus on the Family believes that there are fundamental male-female differences, and that those should be celebrated. They should also be respected in sex-segregated facilities and activities for reasons of privacy, safety and fairness. We also believe and teach that those struggling with gender confusion deserve our love and respect, while still holding to the truth about basic biological differences between men and women. Focus provides resources for individuals and families struggling with these difficult issues, which you can find at our “Transgender Resources” page.
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