Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly faces override threat after vetoing women’s sports, parental-rights bills

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, vetoed Friday a bill to bar male-born athletes from female sports, setting up a showdown with the Republican-controlled legislature.

Senate President Ty Masterson said in a Friday statement that the “Senate will hold override votes when we return in late April” after decrying the governor’s vetoes of bills on women’s sports and parents’ rights in education.

“In recent months, the governor has been a chameleon, demonstrating election-year conversions in an attempt to fool Kansans into believing she shares their values,” said the Republican Masterson. “Rather than listening to parents and female athletes, her decision to veto the Parents’ Bill of Rights and the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act demonstrate she is still largely controlled by the hard left.”

Republican legislatures in Utah and Kentucky have already overridden vetoes this year of bills to prohibit male-born athletes from competing against girls and women, a hot-button issue amid a national debate over fairness and inclusion in athletics.

In her veto message, Ms. Kelly cited concerns about the potential impact of the bill on the business climate as well as the recent vetoes by Republican and Democratic governors.

“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,” she said.

Senate Bill 160 would have required male-born student athletes in elementary, secondary and collegiate sports to compete on the basis of their biological sex. No such restriction would have been placed on female athletes.

Ms. Kelly, who is seeking reelection in November, also drew pushback from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the favorite for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

“Men should not be competing in women’s sports,” Mr. Schmidt tweeted. “Governor Kelly today vetoed (for the second time) a bill to implement that commonsense principle. I would have signed the bill into law.”

In Kansas, both chambers must amass a two-thirds majority to override a bill, a higher threshold than in Kentucky, which requires a simple majority. Utah also requires a two-thirds majority.

Those cheering Ms. Kelly’s veto included the LGBTQ group Equality Kansas, which thanked the governor for “standing for fairness and equality.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas tweeted: “We thank the governor for her veto, and implore the legislature to sustain it.”

Senate Bill 58 would have required school boards to adopt policies giving parents access to curriculum and materials, as well as allowing them to withdraw their children from lessons that conflict with their beliefs or values.

Ms. Kelly also vetoed Republican bills requiring able-bodied food-stamp recipients without dependents to work at least 30 hours per week or enroll in job training, and extending civil immunity for COVID-19 healthcare providers.

Fifteen states have passed bills designed to prevent male-born athletes who identify as female from competing based on their gender identity.


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