Kansas legislature preparing to pass bill barring transgender athletes from women's sports

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The Kansas state legislature is likely to approve a bill that prevents transgender athletes from playing in women's sports. 

Senate Bill 208 requires that “athletic teams or sports designated for females, women or girls shall not be open to students of the male sex.” It would apply to “interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic teams or sports that are sponsored by a public elementary or secondary school, a postsecondary educational institution … or any school or other postsecondary educational institution whose students or teams compete against a public school.”

Simply put, transgender student-athletes in the state would be unable to play women's sports if they were born as males. 

The bill is titled the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act" and was introduced by Republicans in the state Senate. The GOP has majorities in both the Kansas House and the Kansas Senate and the bill is set to be voted on in both chambers of the legislature by Friday. 

“We're looking at opening up a doorway that tells trans kids they are not welcome in any way, shape or form,” Rep. Stephanie Byers said via the AP. “It's coming through our schools — the one place where everybody should feel welcome and appreciated."

Sen. Renee Erickson, one of the bill's sponsors, said it was designed to "protect" female athletes. 

If it passes, it will go to the desk of Gov. Laura Kelly. Kelly, a Democrat, is not seen as likely to sign the bill into law. If Kelly vetoes the bill, that veto could be overridden by the legislature. Two-thirds of each chamber is required to override a veto. Republicans hold 29 of the 40 seats in the state senate and 84 of the 41 seats in the house. If a veto vote is split exactly on party lines, the GOP could override Kelly's veto.

Kansas could be 4th state in 2021 to pass law

If the bill becomes law, Kansas would be at least the fourth state in the United States to create a law limiting transgender athlete participation in 2021. Arkansas,Mississippi, and Tennessee enacted similar laws in March and Idaho passed a similar law in 2020. All four of those states have Republican governors who signed the bills into law. Kansas' law would be the first to go into effect after a veto override. 

The law would also have minimal application in the state of Kansas. According to the AP, the Kansas state athletics association is aware of only five transgender athletes competing across Kansas and a transgender athlete has not won a title in the state. The state of Kansas has a population of just over 2.9 million.