Transgender Kansans alarmed by bills seeking to undermine constitutional rights

Ellen Bertels talking to KS legislature

House committee examines bill mandating gender declaration at birth

By Sherman Smith and Tim Carpenter- March 6, 2023  From the Kansas Reflector


TOPEKA — Adam Kellog (pictured below) says the transgender community in Kansas is terrified by bills advancing through the Legislature this session.

They include efforts to criminalize gender-affirming care, ban transgender athletes from competing with cisgender athletes, and narrowly define what it means to be a woman.

“Their whole lives are at stake here — like their interests, their hobbies, their health care, their ability to exist and thrive is at risk,” Kellog said.

Adam Kellog speaking to KS legislature

Kellog, a transgender man and University of Kansas student from Olathe.

Legislators have been willing to listen, Kellog said, but they haven’t changed their minds.

From Kellog’s point of view, that is because legislators have a misunderstanding about what it means to be transgender.

“I don’t know if it’s a conscious effort to say, ‘Oh, we’re the Republican Party, we want to win, so we’re gonna target this minority.’ I think it’s a misunderstanding to the point where it’s acceptable for them to target this minority,” Kellog said. “And I just don’t think they know what we’re talking about, or what transgender people do or are. I don’t think it’s genuinely malicious. But I do think it’s dangerous.”

Ellen Bertels (pictured speaking), representing Kansas Legal Services, said Senate Bill 180 creating the “Woman’s Bill of Rights” could violate a court order prohibiting the state from forbidding changes to gender markers on identification cards.

The bill would require Kansans be declared male or female at birth for purposes of applying state laws, regulations or rules.

In the House Health and Human Services Committee, skeptics and advocates shared views on the so-called Women’s Bill of Rights.

The "Women's Bill of Rights" would designate the “biological sex” of an individual at birth for purposes of applying state laws, rules or regulations.

Senate Bill 180, approved by the Senate on a vote of 26-11, would make it acceptable to establish “inherently unequal” accommodations by virtue of the assigned sex when deciding on use of restrooms and locker rooms and for those involved with athletics and prisons.

It would establish a low threshold for the courts in terms of evaluating constitutionality of the statute. Schools, state agencies and other political subdivisions collecting vital statistics would be required to track people under their jurisdiction based of whether they were considered male or female at birth.

Beth Oller, a board certified family physician practicing in rural Kansas, said the legislation was flawed because it assumed all people could be easily slotted into two categories.

Advocates for the legislation inaccurately portray the question of biological sex as a black-and-white issue, she said, but variation among humans was far too great to write a coherent law capable of being fairly enforced.

“No true physician or scientist would claim to be able to distill the intricacies into a simple binary,” she said, highlighting the reality of intersex individuals. “We cannot overlook their existence because it doesn’t fit into the picture of a binary that many prefer.”

Tammy Quayle, a Wichita mother of a transgender daughter, said adoption of the bill would jeopardize the safety of her child and make it difficult for her live in Kansas.

“We believe all of our children are a gift from God and are wonderfully and beautifully made by their Creator,” she said. “Our transgender child is no exception. She is transgender, but that is one facet of her. She is accomplished, intelligent, compassionate, friendly, human, deserving of dignity and protection under Kansas law.”

The office of the Kansas attorney general said constitutionality of the Kansas legislation was likely to be challenged and the dispute could take years before validity of the law could be established through the appellate courts.

Representatives of Independent Women’s Voice, which considers itself an advocate of “conservative, free market ideas and solutions,” testified in support of the bill. Hadley Heath Manning, a vice president for policy, and Riley Gaines, a former All-American swimmer at University of Kentucky, said the Kansas bill ought to be law.

“Separating the sexes is not only constitutional,” Gaines said, “It’s common sense.”

The House committee took no action on the bill, but Rep. Brenda Landwehr, the Wichita chairwoman of the panel, said the Kansas Legislature shouldn’t necessarily wait to enact reform until an issue became a major problem.

Last updated on .

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