TOPEKA (KSNT) – Kansas lawmakers are moving forward with legislation that would define biological sex and ban transgender athletes from women sports.
Both proposals have been slammed by LGBTQ advocates as promoting “rampant discrimination” in the state.
The Senate passed House Bill 2238 Thursday afternoon at 28-11, sending it to Governor Laura Kelly’s desk for approval. It would require state athletic teams to be designated as either “male,” female” or “coed/mixed.” The proposal establishes the “Fairness in Women Sports Act,” which supporters argue will level the playing field for women sports.
In an interview with Kansas Capitol Bureau, Riley Gaines, a former University of Kentucky swimmer who competed against transgender athlete Lia Thomas, cited protections for female athletes under Title 9. The federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs receiving Federal financial assistance.
“Women who fought relentlessly for Title 9, in their same lifetime, they’re seeing the benefits of that taken away when these men infiltrate back into our sports and back into our locker rooms and back into our spaces,” Gaines said.
Gaines testified in favor of the House bill during a Senate Education committee hearing on Monday. The bill passed the House 82-40 last month.
During the hearing, a packed room of opponents pushed back, arguing that the legislation discriminates against transgender people in the state.
“Trans people have given you no reason to fear us,” said D.C. Hiegert, a legal fellow with the ACLU of Kansas. “We are just people trying to live our lives. However, you have given trans people valid reason to fear you.”
Members of the ACLU of Kansas also testified in opposition to Senate Bill 180 on Monday. The proposal would define words like “woman,” “man,” “mother” and “father” based on biological sex.
The state’s House Health and Human Services panel passed the bill out of committee on Tuesday. Supporters argued that it would protect women’s rights and privacy in areas, like sports, restrooms, locker rooms and domestic violence centers.
“Women fought relentlessly for their rights… not just in sports, but far beyond that. But, what we’re seeing in our society today is the loss of that,” Gaines said. “It simply defines the term woman which is kind of crazy that we have to do, but it’s necessary.”
However, Aileen Berquist, Policy Director for the ACLU of Kansas, argued that the bill is not about women’s rights. Berquist said that the bill excludes transgender people from certain spaces and people who don’t identify as either “male” or “female.”
“If you aren’t allowing people who are trans women to use public restrooms, who’s going to police that?” Berquist said. “It is less about rights for women, and more about codifying situations that would remove trans women from public life.”