Kansas passes trans bathroom bill; Arkansas OKs own version
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – A Kansas bill to impose some of the nation’s broadest bathroom restrictions and bar transgender people from changing their name or gender on their driver’s licenses cleared the Legislature by a margin Tuesday that suggests that supporters may override the Democratic governor’s expected veto.
The Kansas Senate voted 28-12, one more than the two-thirds majority needed to override any veto, giving final passage to an earlier House-approved version and sending it to Gov. Laura Kelly. Both chambers have Republican supermajorities.
The measure covers bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities, and defines “sex” as “whether male or female, at birth,” a move that LGBTQ+ rights advocates said would legally erase transgender people and denied recognition of non-binary gender fluidity. and gender non-conforming people.
The final vote came less than two hours after Arkansas lawmakers sent Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders a bathroom bill after scaling it back after complaints it would have criminalized transgender people simply using a public bathroom. The Arkansas bill would allow transgender people to be charged with a misdemeanor for using bathrooms or locker rooms associated with their identity if cisgender minors are present, but only if they enter “for the purpose of arousal or gratification of a sexual desire”.
The two states’ measures are among several hundred aimed at rolling back LGBTQ rights pursued by Republicans this year across the United States. The wave of legislation has angered and upset LGBTQ rights activists, transgender people and parents of transgender children.
“I’m what they’re afraid of,” said Ian Benalcazar, a 13-year-old transgender boy from northeast Kansas during a recent LGBTQ rights rally outside the State House. “I am a human being and I deserve to be treated as such and I deserve to be happy.”
Arkansas is among seven states that have barred transgender students from using school bathrooms and locker rooms associated with their gender identity, its law taking effect this summer. However, the Kansas measure also covers prisons, jails, rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and other spaces “where biology, safety or privacy” warrant separate facilities for men and women.
The Kansas bill defines male and female based on a person’s physical anatomy at birth.
The measure now directed at Kelly would state that legally, “sex” means “biological” sex, “whether male or female, at birth.” And it adds, “important government objectives for the protection of health, safety and privacy” justify separate spaces for men and women such as bathrooms and changing rooms.
“This will protect women’s spaces currently reserved for women and men’s spaces,” said House Health Committee Chairwoman Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican who voted for the bill.
Supporters billed their measure as a “Women’s Bill of Rights,” similar to measures introduced in Congress and at least five other states. It was based on language shared by several national anti-trans groups.
Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican, said lawmakers are trying to protect families amid what people see as a small but growing number of transgender girls or women using facilities with girls or women. civil gender.
“People are starting to pay attention,” Masterson said.
Members of the Kansas House included provisions seeking accommodation for some intersex people born with chromosomes, genitalia or reproductive organs that do not fit the typical definitions of male or female.
The House vote last month was 83-41, one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to override any veto, but a conservative Republican who could support the bill was missing.
Kelly vetoed a proposal to ban transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s sports this year for the third year in a row. Republican lawmakers in Kansas are also pursuing a bill aimed at banning sex grooming for minors, something at least 11 states have done.
The governor promised LGBTQ youth lobbying lawmakers last week that she would “protect your rights” and “veto any bill that seeks to harm or discriminate against you.”
In Arkansas, lawmakers initially considered a version of their bill that would have gone further than a 2016 North Carolina bathroom law, since North Carolina’s law did not have criminal penalties. The Arkansas measure allows someone to be charged with sexual misconduct with a child.
The Republican-dominated state Senate approved the revised bill on a 29-4 vote without debate. The House passed it last week without a single “no” vote.
Doctors say that reproductive anatomy at birth does not always conform to strict definitions of sex, and that binary views of sexual identity can miss biological nuances.
Carson Rapp, a 15-year-old from the Wichita, Kansas area who identifies as plus-size or who embraces “more masculine and feminine features,” said expressing gender identity doesn’t hurt others.
“Why stop people from doing that if they’re just being themselves and having fun and expressing themselves?” Carson said during a day of lobbying for LGBTQ youth.
LGBTQ rights advocates say that having a driver’s license or birth certificate confirming a transgender person’s identity is important in itself, but it can also prevent everyday hassles or harassment. The bill’s language would prevent transgender people from changing driver’s licenses and birth certificates, but Kansas is under a 2019 federal court order to allow birth certificate changes.
Carson’s father, Will Rapp, Kansas managing director for GLSEN, a group that advocates for LGBTQ youth, said it’s disheartening to see what he called “pretty terrible” legislation.
“I would like to think that if they were to get to know these young people, it would change their hearts, and we will always hope for that,” he said.
DeMillo reported from Little Rock, Arkansas.
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