Kansas lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill to help parents pull their children out of public school classes with LGBTQ-themed material, as the Democratic lawmaker whose vote was crucial to ban female athletes female and female sports transgenders.
The Republican-controlled Kansas House voted 76 to 46 to approve a “parental rights” measure that would allow a parent to place their child in an alternative to a public school lesson or activity from kindergarten to the 12th grade that “impairs the parent’s sincere beliefs, values or principles. The GOP-dominated Senate approved the measure last week, so it misses Democratic Governor Laura Kelly.
“If there’s a family that’s being denied their rights, we have to fix it,” said Republican State Rep. Susan Estes of Wichita.
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While the measure covers lessons and material dealing with race and perhaps even evolution, it is also in line with Republican pressure in state houses across the United States to roll back rights. LGBTQ issues, especially transgender rights. State Rep. Heather Meyer, a Kansas City-area Democrat, called the measure “the perfect vehicle” for anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
“We can see what’s been done in other states across the country where they’ve used this as a way to attack the LGBTQ community,” said Meyer, who is bisexual and has a 13-year-old transgender son.
The Legislative Assembly approved a sweeping restroom bill on Tuesday and voted on Wednesday to override Kelly’s veto on the measure regarding transgender athletes. Kansas is the 20th state to enact such a sports ban, and its law applies to club and school sports from kindergarten through college beginning July 1.
GOP lawmakers also hoped to pass a bill on Thursday that would require Kansas public schools to bar transgender girls from cohabiting with cisgender girls and transgender boys cohabiting with cisgender boys on nighttime school trips.
Nor had GOP conservatives given up on trying to pass a bill to end gender-affirming care for minors.
Kelly vetoed a bill last year that would have made it easier for parents to try to remove classroom or library materials. Supporters of this year’s bill still fell short of the two-thirds majorities in both chambers needed to override a veto.
“What we heard in committee were parents who not only went to their teacher, but they went to their principal and higher up in their school district and their concerns were not addressed,” said said Estes.
Meanwhile, conservative Republicans were able to override Kelly’s third veto of a transgender athlete bill in three years due to a ‘yes’ vote from just one Democrat, freshman Rep. Marvin Robinson of Kansas. City.
This Kansas vote came a day before President Joe Biden’s administration announced a proposal for bar schools and colleges to ban transgender athletes outright, but allow them to set certain limits to preserve the equity.
Robinson represents a heavily Democratic district and replaced a retired lawmaker who voted against overriding Kelly’s veto in 2022. Kansas Young Democrats and the state’s LGBTQ+ and progressive Democratic Party caucuses have demanded that resigns after Wednesday’s vote.
Robinson also supported the parental rights measure. Kansas House Democratic Leader Vic Miller said he would be “pleased” if Robinson resigned.
“Right now he votes more with the other party than with ours,” Miller said. “He ran as a Democrat, but he doesn’t appear to be serving as a Democrat.”
Robinson told a conservative Kansas City radio talk show Thursday morning that he thought he was “on the same page” as Kelly because of a TV ad she aired during his campaign for re-election. In the ad, Kelly looked at the camera and said, “Of course, men shouldn’t play girls’ sports. OK, we all agree on that.
At the time, Republicans accused Kelly of lying on his record. LGBTQ rights advocates interpreted her comment as saying that men playing women’s sports weren’t a problem because girls and transgender women are women.
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Robinson told The Associated Press that no one in the Democratic Party told him last year that he should vote against transgender athlete bills. He also said a fellow Democrat he declined to name “told me I should die.”
He dismissed criticism that his vote would “harm people’s children”.
“Who could mistreat and despise someone?” he said. “You know, everyone is God’s creation.”
He told the radio host that friends told him, “Dude, you’re up there with a bunch of demons.”
Meyer said “absolutely none” of Robinson’s Democratic colleagues would have told him after the vote that he had to die.
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“We care about mental health and we care about our colleagues, even if we disagree,” Meyer said.
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