The move is the culmination of a long-running messaging campaign Republicans have mounted across the country to push through a “women’s bill of rights.” And the GOP victory in Kansas could signal the success of their tactics as similar proposals are introduced or advanced in Oklahoma, South Carolina, North Dakota and Tennessee.
Kansas House Republicans touted their waiver as a victory for protecting women’s rights.
The main legislators of the chamber said in a press release that they “stand with the women and girls of Kansas and their right to privacy, safety and dignity in gender-separated spaces. Trading the rights of one group for those of another is never acceptable.
Montana, where both rooms in the Statehouse have paid a bill which would also codify a definition of sex into law, is expected to join Kansas in the coming days.
“We saw that they started with sports bans, but we know that the goal of people targeting the trans community was never sports – it was about eradicating trans people from public life” , Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the first transgender woman elected to the state legislature, said in an interview.
Zephyr gained national attention this month for telling his GOP colleagues they would have blood on their hands for supporting bills banning gender-affirming youth care. She was censured by the Montana State Legislature on Wednesday after she refused to apologize for her remarks and hundreds of people protested her silence at the state Capitol. The restrictions prevent her from speaking on the floor for the rest of the legislative session, although she can vote remotely.
“Trans people exist,” Zephyr, a Democrat, told POLITICO. “Non-binary people exist, intersex people exist, and you can’t legislate us out.”
After being locked out of power in Washington, conservative women’s groups quickly turned their attention to state capitals, most of which are led by GOP majorities or supermajorities, after testing gender issues in a number of 2022 campaigns. These fights in states to codify a binary definition of gender will likely rock school districts caught between conflicting state and federal laws dictating which bathrooms and sports teams transgender students can access.
More than 20 states have laws prohibiting transgender students from playing on sports teams that conform to their gender identity, at least seven states prevent them from using facilities, and more than 15 states prohibit transgender minors from accessing care of gender affirmation.
THE Kansas measurement defines a woman as someone “whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce eggs”. It also specifies other terms, including “daughter”, “woman”, and “mother”. A similar proposal supported by several conservative women’s groups first introduced in May 2022 at federal level and reintroduced this congress in February.
“Kansas’ bill would certainly be among the most restrictive we’ve seen in the country – one of the most expansive, one of the most extreme, and truly one of the most nasty and hurtful,” the director said. Executive of the ACLU of Kansas. Micah Kubic said ahead of the House vote. “School districts are probably one of the very first places where this bill and all others like it will appear.”
Republicans across the country are increasingly targeting transgender issues to rally their base, send a message to Capitol Hill and attract moderate female voters ahead of the 2024 election.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was pressed by the representative. Andre Clyde (R-Ga.) to answer “what is a woman” during an April hearing on the Department of Education’s fiscal year 2024 budget. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) led the same line of questioning against Ketanji Brown Jackson when he was nominated for the Supreme Court last year.
And in Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, she described the president as “the first man to hand over his presidency to a woke mob that can’t even tell you what a woman is”.
House Republicans also used their narrow majority to pass a bill banning transgender students from playing on women’s sports teams — a rebuke to the Biden administration’s Title IX athletics proposal unveiled in April.
The new rule would make categorical bans on transgender sports illegal and allow transgender girls to play on women’s sports teams, but with some limitations. The rule recognizes levels of competition, fairness and a school’s interest in preventing injury, especially in contact sports.
“Even if you look at Biden’s proposed rule in Title IX on sports, it’s recognized that there are differences between men and women,” said May Mailman, senior legal officer at the Independent Women’s Law Center, who made push for federal bills and the one in Kansas. “You can’t say women deserve protection, but we don’t know what women are.
Women’s groups and conservative political leaders say “Bill of Rights” laws are needed to protect gender-separated spaces like prisons and domestic violence shelters.
Lauren Bone, who served as legal director for the Women’s Liberation Front, which supports the measures, said they were not intended to ostracize or harm people. She said there is an urgent need for definitions of sex and gender identity that people struggle to define, especially as lawmakers come up with legislation with the terms.
“It codifies everyone’s definition that they already have in mind,” Bone said.
A similar bill is progressing in Montana, where the state legislature is clearing some procedural hurdles for the measure before sending it to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, who is expected to sign it despite objections from one of his sons who identifies as non-binary.
Unlike the Kansas proposal, the Montana bill is not rooted in the argument of protecting spaces separated by gender. Instead, LGBTQ advocates say the bill seeks to advance and impose permanent restrictions on transgender, non-binary, and intersex people that began with the GOP state senator’s 2021 legislation, Carl Glimm, who made it difficult for them to change their sex designation on their birth certificate. Glimm said the bill was needed because people confuse sex with gender.
Medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, support gender-affirming care for adolescents, which rarely, if ever, includes surgery for children. But Gianforte has pushed for legislation that would ban the use of public funds for gender-affirming care for minors, preferring that they make the decision as adults.
If the state erases a binary definition of sex, the ACLU of Montana said school districts and other agencies caught between conflicting state and federal laws could risk their federal funding.
“This bill would likely jeopardize $7.5 billion in federal funds – roughly half of Montana’s budget – because these definitions do not comply with federal regulations and current civil rights law. “said Keegan Medrano, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the ACLU Montana. “This impacts universities, schools, and other areas where federal funds are currently accessible by Montana.”
According to Liz King, senior director of the education program at the Civil and Human Rights Leaders Conference, which represents more than 200 groups.
“There’s been an effort to capitalize on fear around otherness for a very long time,” King said. “And this is just the latest manifestation.”