The Kansas House of Representatives failed on April 28, 2022, to override Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of two civil rights bills — despite the Kansas Senate voting to override.

The House voted 72-50 to override Kelly’s Veto of Senate Bill 58, the Parents Bill of Rights,” which states that all parents have a right to direct their child’s upbringing, education, care, and mental health. Twelve Republicans joined 38 Democrats in voting to sustain Kelly’s veto.  The bill enumerated 12 rights reserved by the state for parents regarding their children. Such enumerated rights would have included, but would not have been limited to, the right to direct the education and care of the parent’s child and the right to direct the upbringing and moral or religious training of the parents’ child. However, the House fell short of the 84 votes needed to override.

The Senate had already voted to override 27-12, with one Republican joining 11 Democrats to sustain the veto of a parent’s basic civil rights to protect their child.

Kelly stated the bill was pure politics in her veto statement.

“This bill … is about politics, not parents,” she said. “Over one hundred Kansas parents testified against this bill. It would create more division in our schools and would be costly. Money that should be spent in the classroom would end up being spent in the courtroom.”

While she cited the parents who testified against the bill, Kelly ignored the parents who testified in support of the Parents Bill of Rights.  Further, a statewide survey shows that 57% of parents are concerned about what their children are being taught, and a whopping 88% agreed that parents should have the primary say in their child’s education.

The groups most strongly opposed to the Parents Bill of Rights and its transparency elements were the Kansas National Education Association and the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Veto of bill protecting female athlete’s rights sustained

The Kansas House also failed to override Kelly’s veto of Senate Bill 160, which would have prevented biologically male athletes from competing in girls’ sports.

The House originally voted 81-41 to pass the bill and came up three votes shy of the 84 needed to override the veto.  Three Republicans joined 37 Democrats to sustain Kelly’s veto.

The Senate had already voted 28-10 to override.

In a release, Kelly stated, “Both Republican and Democratic Governors have joined me in vetoing similar divisive bills for the same reasons: it’s harmful to students and their families, and it’s bad for business.” Kelly added that while “we all” want student-athletes to have a “fair and safe place” to compete, this bill “didn’t come from the experts at our schools, our athletes, or the Kansas State High School Activities Association. It came from politicians trying to score political points.”

In reality, however, legislators who proposed and voted to prevent biological males from competing with females did so on behalf of parents and other voters who strongly believe in protecting the rights of females to compete fairly.  It is not a matter for so-called school experts to decide what is correct, as Kelly implies; it is a matter of personal opinion and belief.  Indeed, her statement can be attributed to a politician trying to score political points with her supporters.

KSNT reports that during the Senate debate, Minority Leader Dinah Sykes (D-Lenexa) stated everyone’s body is “different” and claimed there was no evidence that the average transgender girl is “bigger, stronger, or faster” than a biological woman. 

However, in January of last year, NBC News reported on a British study that found that even after a year of hormone replacement — which most transgender minors are not receiving — transgender athletes retain their advantages over biologically female athletes.

Moreover, a comparison between 2016 male finalists for the New Balance Nationals Outdoor Championship — an elite track and field tournament for the best Jr. high and high school competitors in the country — and the 2016 women’s Olympic track and field finalists found that, in many cases, the women’s gold medalists would not have even qualified to enter the boys’ competition.

Bills such as SB 160 gained momentum this year after transgender swimmer Lia Thomas — who was ranked No. 462 as a man in 2019 — bounced to No. 1 in the women’s ranks in 2022. 

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