TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The timeline is shifting on a final vote to override Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of a controversial bill banning transgender athletes in the state.
Senate Bill 160, also known as the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” bans transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports. The ban also extends from kindergarten to students participating in sports at the collegiate level.
While the House read the governor’s veto messages Wednesday, no action was taken. Rep. Barbara Wasinger, a Republican from Hays, who champions the bill, told Kansas Capitol Bureau she expects action on the veto to take place next week, as “quite a few” House members are absent.
“It has nothing to do with whether you are trans … it all has to do with fairness for young women,” Rep. Wasinger said. “I am working as hard as I can to make sure that people know what I’m thinking. And, hopefully, I can convince them to vote with me.”
Rep. Brandon Woodard, D-Lenexa, said the delayed attempt to override the governor’s veto may be due to a lack of support on the GOP side. The bill was initially passed with 74 votes in support of the measure. However, Republicans will need to gain 10 more votes for a successful override, passing the bill into law.
“The votes are going to be very close … We are working with our more centrist Republican partners to see if those that have already voted no on the policy if we can count on their vote to sustain the governor’s veto as well,” Woodard said.
Republicans say the measure aims to “level the playing field” for women’s athletics, pointing to biological differences that create a competitive disadvantage. However, Democrats argue that it’s a push to score “political points,” targeting transgender youth in the state.
The GOP-led attempt to overturn the governor’s veto was eclipsed by comments made by state Rep. Cheryl Helmer, a Republican from Mulvane, who said she doesn’t want to share a restroom with a transgender colleague.
Helmer’s comments surfaced from an email exchange where she referred to Rep. Stephanie Byers, a Democrat from Wichita. Byers spoke with Kansas Capitol Bureau about the incident Wednesday and said she has yet to speak with Helmer on the issue but has seen that she “triples down” on the comments on social media.
“People need to make choices, and one of the choices they need to decide is are they going to live their lives out of love or are they going to live their lives out of fear. Obviously, the responses that this representative has given are based on fear, and I would highly encourage her to look to love,” Byers said. “There are 40,000 Kansans that identify as LGBTQ, and they deserve the same rights and freedoms as everyone else does.”