TOPEKA (KSNT)— Kansas Governor Laura Kelly responded to criticism about her decision to veto SB 55, a bill that would bar anyone born biologically male from competing in women’s sports.
The governor told Kansas’ Capitol Bureau on Thursday, that the bill would discriminate against transgender athletes, and drive away businesses from the state. Kelly said she wanted to send the message that discrimination has no place in Kansas.
“I knew from the very beginning when that conversation started, it was wrong,” she said. “That kind of legislation is mean-spirited, it’s discriminatory, and it’s completely and totally unnecessary.”
Some Republican lawmakers argue it’s about creating an equal opportunity for women athletes in the state. Supporters of the bill call it the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act.”
“We need to make sure that we keep the playing field equal,” said Representative Barb Wasinger, R-Hays, who carried the bill on the House floor.
The governor’s decision comes after national pushback, with the NCAA even threatening to pull national championships from states with legislation that limits participation of transgender athletes.
Senator Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, chairs the state’s Committee on Education, which the bill passed out of. Baumgardner said she was disappointed, but not surprised with the governor’s decision.
“The bill was designed to bring fairness to women’s athletics,” Baumgardner said. “It’s unfortunate that our governor chose to take the position of lost revenue from the NCAA.”
However, the governor said that the legislature has overstepped its boundaries with this legislation.
“I think I speak on behalf of most young women who welcome the competition from anywhere that it comes,” Kelly said. “They’re able to take care of themselves, they’re able to compete, and they don’t need the protection of the legislature.”
Some other states have vetoed similar legislation in fear of challenges from the NCAA. Republican governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota, who’s headlining the upcoming Kansas GOP convention, faced pushbacks from social conservatives, after issuing a partial veto of a similar bill.
Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson issued a joint statement with Senator Renee Erickson, R-Wichita, on Thursday, promising to continue efforts to push the bill forward.
“The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act is as simple as it sounds – it ensures fairness. It’s not about anything else other than that, and no state should allow itself to be intimidated by big corporations or the NCAA into pretending otherwise. We will continue to fight for fairness in women’s sports until this bill becomes law.”JOINT STATEMENT, SENATE PRESIDENT TY MASTERSON & SEN. RENEE ERICKSON
Currently, the bill does not have enough votes in the Senate and House for the legislature to overturn the veto. However, the vote could change if it’s brought back to the floor.
The governor also vetoed two other bills that received strong support from GOP lawmakers. One bill would require high-school students to pass a civics test to graduate, and the other bill would standardize firearm safety education training for certain grade levels in K-12 schools.
Some Democratic lawmakers released statements in support of Gov. Kelly’s decision. Senate Minority Leader, Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, issued the following statement in a press release on Thursday.
“The Legislature has picked up a nasty habit this year of sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong and creating restrictive laws to address problems that don’t exist. The bills vetoed by Governor Kelly this afternoon range from unnecessary to discriminatory. I urge my colleagues in leadership to accept the Governor’s vetoes and allow us to spend our remaining time in session addressing the needs of hardworking Kansans, passing a balanced budget, and meeting our constitutional requirement to fund our public schools.”SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER DINAH SYKES
The governor also told Kansas’ Capitol Bureau that the decision to veto both bills was due to legislative overreach.
“It’s a curriculum issue, that’s the state board of education’s domain, and that’s where we need it to stay,” Gov. Kelly said.