Kansas governor vetoes transgender sports bill for third time

by Jacob Fuller

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

It’s become an annual tradition for the conservative-led Kansas legislature to pass a bill banning biological male athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports and for Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to summarily veto it.

This year, for the third consecutive year, Kelly issued such a veto of House Bill 2238. However, unlike years past, Republicans in the state legislature might have the ability to override her.

“Let’s be clear what this bill is all about — politics,” Kelly wrote in her veto message. “It won’t increase any test scores. It won’t help any kids read or write. It won’t help any teachers prepare our kids for the real world. Here’s what this bill would actually do: harm the mental health of our students. That’s exactly why Republican governors have joined me in vetoing similar bills.”

The governor was referring to the Republican governors of Indiana and Utah, both of whom vetoed transgender sports bans. The Utah legislature later overrode the veto in that state.

In Kentucky, a conservative-run state with a Democratic governor, the state legislature also overrode a gubernatorial veto to pass a law requiring student-athletes to compete in the sports designated for their biological sex.

“This bill would also reverse the progress we’ve made in recruiting businesses and creating jobs,” Kelly wrote. “It would send a signal to prospective companies that Kansas is more focused on unnecessary and divisive legislation than becoming a place where young people want to work and raise a family.”

Conservatives in the legislature rejected the governor’s rationale.

“Despite her repeated pledges to meet us in the middle, the governor has decided to side yet again with the most radical elements of her party,” Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson said in a statement.


Kelly added that she felt the legislature should allow the Kansas State High School Activities Association to decide how best to address the issue of transgenderism in prep sports.

But, the KSHSAA does not truly have a definitive policy on that matter. Athletes are neither expressly permitted nor forbidden to compete in a division outside of their sex.

The only portion of the organization’s handbook that addresses the matter of members of one sex competing against members of the other is found on page 40 and applies exclusively to wrestling. And that rule is one that allows girls to compete in the boys’ division of wrestling if a meet features no girls’ division.

It’s possible that Kansas Republicans have enough votes to orchestrate their own override, but there are no guarantees.

More than two-thirds of the Kansas legislature was Republican in each of the previous two years as well, but moderates broke from the party on each occasion to preserve Kelly’s veto.

To override a veto, the Kansas state senate would need 27 votes. The bill passed 28-11. In the House, the advantage is unclear. Eighty-two Republicans voted in favor of the bill in the lower chamber, two fewer than the number required to reach the two-thirds threshold. But, two Republicans were absent from the vote, meaning they might provide the 83rd and 84th votes required for an override.