Kansas OKs bill on opting kids out of LGBTQ-themed lessons
Apr 6, 2023, 2:32 PM
(Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal via AP)
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers approved a bill Thursday aimed at helping parents opt their children out of public school lessons with LGBTQ-themed materials, as a Democratic lawmaker whose vote was crucial to banning transgender female athletes from girls’ and women’s sports faced calls to resign.
The Republican-controlled Kansas House voted 76-46 to approve a “parental rights” measure that would allow a parent to place their child in an alternative to a public K-12 school lesson or activity that “impairs the parent’s sincerely held beliefs, values or principles.” The GOP-dominated Senate approved the measure last week, so it goes next to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.
“If there is one family who are denied their rights, we need to address it,” said Republican state Rep. Susan Estes, of Wichita.
While the measure covers lessons and materials dealing with race and possibly even evolution, it also is in line with the push by Republicans in statehouses across the U.S. to roll back LGBTQ rights, particularly transgender rights. State Rep. Heather Meyer, a Kansas City-area Democrat, called the measure a “perfect vehicle” for anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
“We can see what’s been done in other states across the country where they have used this as a vehicle to attack the LGBTQ community,” said Meyer, who is bisexual and has a 13-year-old transgender son.
The Legislature on Tuesday override Kelly’s veto of the measure on 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 starting July 1.
GOP lawmakers also hoped to pass a bill Thursday that would require Kansas public schools to keep transgender girls from rooming with cisgendered girls and transgender boys, with cisgendered boys, on overnight school trips.
GOP conservatives also hadn’t given up on trying to pass a bill aimed at ending 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 were short of the two-thirds majorities in both chambers necessary to override a veto.
“What we heard in committee were parents who not only went to their teacher, they went to their principal and higher up in their school district and did not have their concerns addressed,” Estes said.
Meanwhile, conservative Republicans were able to override Kelly’s third veto of a bill on transgender athletes in three years because of the “yes” vote from a single Democrat, freshman Rep. Marvin Robinson, of Kansas City.
That Kansas vote came a day before President Joe Biden’s administration announced a proposal to bar schools and colleges from enacting outright bans on transgender athletes but allow them to set some limits to preserve fairness.
Robinson represents a heavily Democratic district and replaced a retiring lawmaker who voted against overriding Kelly’s veto in 2022. Kansas Young Democrats and the state Democratic Party’s LGBTQ+ and Progressive caucuses demanded that he step down after Wednesday’s vote.
Robinson also supported the parents’ rights measure. Kansas House Democratic Leader Vic Miller said he would be “pleased” if Robinson resigned.
“Right now, he’s voting more with the other party than he is with ours,” Miller said. “He ran as a Democrat, but he doesn’t seem 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 television commercial she aired during her reelection campaign. In that ad, Kelly looked into the camera and said: “Of course men should not play girls’ sports. OK, we all agree there.”
At the time, Republicans accused Kelly of lying about her record. LGBTQ-rights advocates interpreted her comment as saying men playing girl’s sports wasn’t an issue because transgender girls and women are female.
Robinson told The Associated Press that no one in the Democratic Party told him last year that he was expected to vote against bills on transgender athletes. He also said a female Democratic colleague that he declined to name “told me I should die.”
He rejected criticism that his vote is “hurting people’s kids.”
“Who could mistreat and look down on anybody?” he said. “You know, everybody is God’s creation.”
He told the radio host that friends told him: “Man, you’re up there with a bunch of demons.”
Meyer said “absolutely none” of Robinson’s fellow Democrats would have told him after the vote that he should die.
“We care about mental health and we care about our colleagues, even if we disagree,” Meyer said.
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