Kansas, West Virginia advance women’s sports bills barring transgender athletes


State bills barring transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s sports gained steam Friday as the Kansas state legislature became the latest to approve such a measure, a day after West Virginia advanced similar legislation.

The Kansas Fairness in Women’s Sports Act now goes to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly after the state Senate approved it Friday by a 26-11 vote, less than a day after the House passed the measure by 76-43. 

Meanwhile, West Virginia is also on the verge of sending such a bill to the governor’s desk.

The state Senate on Thursday voted 18-15 in favor of a bill preventing biological males from competing in female scholastic sports, sending it for concurrence to the state House, which approved the measure last month by 78-20.

Kansas becomes the fourth state this year to pass such legislation, after Mississippi, Tennessee, South Dakota and Arkansas. Last year, Idaho became the first state to approve a women’s sports bill, which was stayed by a federal judge pending a legal challenge.

All the Republican governors have signed the bills except South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who vetoed the measure last month but then signed executive orders requiring K-12 students to participate based on their biological sex and encouraged state collegiate authorities to follow the same policy.

The Kansas governor has not said whether she will sign the legislation. Both chambers fell just short of the two-thirds majorities needed to override a veto.

The Family Policy Alliance of Kansas issued a statement Friday urging Ms. Kelly to support the bill, saying that if she “believes in equal rights for women and for the opportunities for women in our state, it is imperative that she signs this bill into law swiftly.”

Business groups have opposed such measures, citing the threat of economic boycotts, while supporters have argued that the issue transcends financial considerations.

“I find it insulting that we say we value fairness, equality, equal rights for women, and then we talk about a price tag of losing potential business,” said Kansas state Sen. Renee Erickson, a Republican, on KSN-TV.

Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Byers, the state’s first transgender legislator, argued that such legislation “would ban trans girls from affirming their identity through sports, thereby erasing them.”

In West Virginia, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement urging Republican Gov. Jim Justice to veto the measure.

“Taking this opportunity away from one group just because they’re different is cruel,” said the ACLU petition. “It’s also a violation of Title IX and the Constitution, and will invite costly lawsuits that the state will lose.”

The bills only apply to male-to-female transgender athletes. Supporters of the legislation argue that biological males have an unfair physical advantage, while foes insist that “trans women are women.”

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