- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 22, 2021

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed Thursday a bill barring transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports, saying the legislation would endanger the state’s business climate and send a “devastating message.”

The Democrat Kelly had hinted previously that she would reject Senate Bill 55, which was passed earlier this month by the Republican-controlled state legislature by 26-11 in the Senate and 76-43 in the House.

Both votes were shy of the two-thirds majorities—84 in the House, 27 in the Senate — needed to override a gubernatorial veto.

“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,” Mr. Kelly said in her veto message.

She also raised concerns about the economic impact. LGBTQ advocates have threatened to boycott states that approve Fairness in Women’s Sports bills, which have been signed by governors in four states over the last two legislative sessions.

“This bill would also undoubtedly harm our ability to attract and retain businesses,” Ms. Kelly said. “It would send a signal to prospective companies that Kansas is more focused on unnecessary and divisive legislation, than strategic, pro-growth lawmaking.”

Senate President Ty Masterson and state Sen. Renee Erickson, both Republicans, accused her of capitulating “to the mistruths and extreme rhetoric offered by the left.”

“The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act is as simple as it sounds — it ensures fairness,” they said in a statement. “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.”

Ms. Kelly‘s veto came a day after North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, vetoed a similar bill, saying there had been no example of a transgender student seeking to join girl’s sports teams and expressing confidence in the state’s scholastic athletics authority.

Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, said the legislation would have helped female athletes in Kansas “compete on a level playing field” and urging legislators to override the veto.

“We’ve seen increasing examples of males dominating girls’ athletic competitions when competing as females, capturing championships, and shattering long-standing female track records,” Ms. Holcomb said. “While we are disappointed by the governor’s veto, we are thankful to Kansas legislators for taking a strong stand for female athletes.”

The ACLU of Kansas and Human Rights Campaign cheered the veto, tweeting, “Trans kids belong in Kansas.”

Bills requiring scholastic athletes to join teams based on their sex at birth have been signed this year by governors in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, while South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem issued executive orders doing the same with K-12 girls’ sports after vetoing legislation that included college athletics.

Idaho was the first state to pass a Fairness in Women’s Sports act when it did so last year, but the measure was stayed by a court pending a legal challenge.

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