Kansas right pushing back more aggressively on LGBTQ rights

Jan 10, 2023, 12:43 AM | Updated: 3:08 pm

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, right, R-Andover, speaks during a news conference for announc...

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, right, R-Andover, speaks during a news conference for announcing Republican legislative leaders' agenda for the year, with House Speaker Dan Hawkins, left, watching, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Masterson wants to pursue restrictions on how public schools handle human sexuality issues and fellow conservatives are pushing back more aggressively this year on LGBTQ-rights issues. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

(AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Kansas legislators are pushing back more aggressively this year on LGBTQ-rights issues than in the past two years, with proposals to ban gender-affirming care for trangender youth and restrict how public schools discuss sexual orientation and gender identity.

Top Republican lawmakers on Tuesday outlined an agenda for the year that includes culture war issues pursued by Republicans in other states, including a ban on transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s K-12, club and college sports. Their broader agenda on LGBTQ-rights issues this year in Kansas also comes after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly narrowly won reelection in November despite GOP attacks over her vetoes of two bills restricting transgender athletes.

On LGBTQ-rights issues, the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature focused in 2021 and 2022 on trangender athletes. Lawmakers haven’t considered a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth or bills to restrict which bathrooms transgender people can use. Proposals on what schools teach on history and sexuality have not gone as far as a Florida law derided by critics as a “Don’t Say Gay” policy.

State Rep. Heather Meyer, a bisexual Kansas City-area Democrat with a transgender son, said this year, for GOP lawmakers, “It sounds like that the bigots are the priority, not our children.”

“They want to make it so that it’s like we never existed, so like the LGBTQ community is invisible,” she said.

Top Republican lawmakers pledged to keep pushing for a laws restricting transgender athletes. Eighteen states have such laws, including Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas, according to the nonprofit, pro-LGBTQ-rights Movement Advancement Project think tank.

Supporters of such laws argue that they preserve fairness in competition and college scholarship opportunities for what they call “biological” women.

As Kelly ran for reelection, her campaign said she believes decisions about transgender athletes should be made by schools, doctors, families and local officials. That statement came after she declared in a television ad that, “Of course men should not play girls’ sports. OK, we all agree there.”

Two of the Legislature’s most conservative Republicans, state Sens. Mark Steffen, from south-central Kansas, and Mike Thompson, from the Kansas City area, introduced a bill that would make it illegal to perform gender-affirming surgery or provide hormone therapy or puberty-blocking medications to anyone under 21. Doctors would face having their medical licenses suspended or revoked for “professional incompetency.”

Arkansas bans such care for minors; Alabama makes it a felony, and Arizona bans gender-affirming surgery for minors. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order last year treating gender-affirming care as child abuse. Proposals have been introduced in at least 10 other states.

“It’s a way of trying to protect these children from what could be life-altering and irreversible types of medical and chemical procedures,” Thompson told reporters after his bill was introduced.

It’s not clear how much support the measure has, and a hearing has yet to be scheduled. Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican, expressed a willingness to consider the idea.

But Kelly is certain to be a big obstacle to such a policy. Asked about the proposal, Kelly told reporters Tuesday, “You can just imagine what I think of that.”

State Rep. Brandon Woodard, a gay Kansas City-area Democrat, called the measure “a garbage bill.”

“Gender-affirming care is live-saving and this bill is dangerous, hateful and will lead to death by suicide,” he said.

During a Statehouse news conference for introducing GOP leaders’ agenda, Masterson decried what he called a “sexualized, woke agenda” in public schools. Later, he told reporters that he wants to pursue a law that would spell out limits on what schools can teach or discuss about sexuality issues by grade level.

Masterson said he’s worried about schools focusing on people’s “innate characteristics” and “dividing us up into different groups.”

“We’ve gotten completely away from, basically, fundamental academics,” he said. “And it’s not helping our children.”

But state Rep. Susan Ruiz, a lesbian Kansas City-area Democrat, said the “radical right” is creating the problems.

“These are just kids who are trying to understand themselves,” she said. “They are coming after children who are vulnerable.”


Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

2 days ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

3 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

5 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

5 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

6 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

6 days ago

Kansas right pushing back more aggressively on LGBTQ rights