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Kansas governor vetoes a ban on gender-affirming care; GOP vows override

Kansas’ Democratic governor vetoed a bill Friday that would have banned gender-affirming care for minors, setting up a showdown with the state’s large Republican majority as she tries to join more of a dozen states restricting transgender care.

The Republican-led Legislature is widely expected to try to override the veto. The measure that Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (D-D) struck down, Senate Bill 233, would ban hormone therapy, puberty blockers and sex reassignment surgery for people under 18.

Carrie Rahfaldt, spokesperson for Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins (R), told the Washington Post that she expects the Senate to begin voting sometime after a veto session begins on April 29.

If two-thirds of the Senate votes to pass the bill, the measure will return to the House, which also requires a two-thirds majority to overturn it. Hawkins said in a statement Friday that “House Republicans are prepared to override (the) veto to protect vulnerable Kansas children.”

Kansas has 40 Democrats and 85 Republicans in the House and 11 Democrats and 29 Republicans in the Senate. The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 82 to 39 and the Senate by a vote of 27 to 13, largely along partisan lines. To override the veto, the House would have to add two yes votes and the Senate could lose none.

The success of voting in the part-time legislature depends largely on turnout.

“The absences will change the number they have to reach,” said Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas. “People have to leave and return home because of work or family issues. So they might not have enough votes in both chambers to override the veto.”

Kelly wrote in her veto message that she rejected the bill because it “tramples on parental rights,” a phrase often used by conservatives to defend restrictions on books in public libraries and schools.

“This controversial legislation targets a small group of Kansans by imposing government mandates on them and dictating to parents how best to raise and care for their children,” Kelly said. “The last place I would want to be as a politician is between a parent and a child who needs medical attention of any kind. And yet that is exactly what this legislation does.

House Republican leaders denounced the veto.

“As we watch other states, nations and organizations reverse the trend of these experimental procedures on children, Laura Kelly will most surely find herself on the wrong side of history with her reckless veto of this common-sense protection for minors of Kansas,” Hawkins said. in Friday’s statement.

Last year, Kelly vetoed four bills that would have created restrictions on transgender people, including measures banning transgender girls and women from joining girls’ sports teams in grades K-12 and university level, and ending state legal recognition of the gender identity of transgender people. Republicans overrode their vetoes on three of those measures, according to the Kansas City Star.

A record number of bills targeting transgender people have passed state legislatures in recent years. Lawmakers have introduced nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills during the 2024 legislative session, according to data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union. As of May 2023, lawmakers have introduced more than 400 such bills, up from about 150 in 2022, according to the Washington Post.

Many of these bills target gender-affirming care for minors, restroom use and other facilities such as locker rooms, pronouns and drag shows, according to the ACLU. Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa and Tennessee have introduced the highest proportion of anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year, according to the ACLU.

In January, Ohio’s large Republican majority banned gender-affirming care for minors, overriding Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of the bill in December. The law prohibits hormone therapy, puberty blockers and sex reassignment surgery for people under 18. The measure also bans transgender girls from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams in high school and college.

Like the Ohio bill, Kansas SB 233 would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The bill would also restrict the use of public funds for gender-affirming care; prohibit the use of state property, including the University of Kansas Medical Center, on this care; and prohibit state employees who work with children from promoting or advocating for gender-affirming care. Under the measure, any health care provider who violates the ban would have their license revoked.

Major medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the Endocrine Society oppose restrictions on gender-affirming care. The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have declared gender-affirming care for transgender children “medically necessary.”

Advocacy The organizations warned state lawmakers that the bill’s “extreme scope could have unintended consequences.”

“We cannot overestimate the harm this bill will cause to some of our most vulnerable Kansas children and their families,” DC Hiegert, LGBTQ+ member of the ACLU of Kansas, said in a statement after the veto . “This bill attacks parents’ right to access lifesaving health care for their children and threatens Kansas medical providers. And it’s written so broadly that it could impact spaces like schools, therapists’ offices, or state agencies like the Kansas Department of Children and Families — and maybe on anyone who provides any type of support or services to children in these places, as well as young people who need them.

Haider-Markel, who has written books on transgender rights and policy, predicted the bill would cause parents of transgender children to leave the state for treatment.

The legislation would disrupt “the lives of young people and their families and really encourage, I think, many families with trans members to consider leaving the state because of the way they have targeted their families,” he said. he declares.

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