The bill passed 24-10 in the Republican-controlled legislature and would require public schools and state colleges to categorize sports teams based on an athlete’s gender at birth.
“What we heard in testimony is that there are parents and there are student-athletes that want to compete against folks that have that same physical makeup,” Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Republican and chair of the education committee, said, according to KSNT-TV in Topeka, Kansas.
The bill has reportedly been a priority for Kansas Republicans.
The Family Policy Alliance of Kansas hailed the advancement of the bill as a “victory” for women and girls in the state.
“Girls desire a fair playing field. That is all this bill provides,” Brittany Jones, the alliance’s Director of Advocacy said in a statement, according to WIBW-TV in Topeka. “To every female athlete – this is a declaration that there is a place for you to shoot for the stars in Kansas.”
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has called the bill “regressive” and Senate Democratic Leader Dinah Sykes said the vote was a failure in “compassionate government and leadership.” She said it shows “how little…elected representatives value [trans] lives and contributions to our state,” WIBW reported.
Other opponents of the bill have said it would lead to bullying.
But Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican, argued the bill isn’t about “sexuality, it is not about orientation, it is not about identity, it is not about discrimination. What it is about very simply, fair competition in women’s sports.”
He called categorizing teams by gender assigned at birth “basic science,” KSNT reported.
The bill now heads to the House. The governor hasn’t said if she plans to veto it if it passes out of the House.
More than a dozen other states are reportedly considering similar bills and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves just signed a bill banning trans girls on girls’ sports teams last week.