On Thursday, Kansas lawmakers passed a bill intending to assist parents in opting their children out of public-school lessons containing LGBTQ-themed materials. This development comes amidst calls for the resignation of a Democratic lawmaker who played a crucial role in banning transgender female athletes from participating in girls and women’s sports.
The “parental rights” measure, supported by the Republican-controlled Kansas House, received a vote of 76-46 in favor. The bill allows parents to choose alternative educational options for their children in K-12 public schools when the standard curriculum conflicts with their sincerely held beliefs, values, or principles.
Last week, the measure had already been approved by the GOP-dominated Senate, and it now awaits review by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly.
Infringement of rights?
Republican state Representative Susan Estes of Wichita voiced her support, emphasizing the importance of addressing any instances where families feel their rights are being infringed upon.
In addition to addressing lessons and materials related to race and potentially even evolution, the approved measure aligns with the broader efforts by Republicans in state legislatures throughout the United States to curtail LGBTQ rights, particularly transgender rights.
State Representative Heather Meyer, a Democrat from the Kansas City area, criticized the measure as a “perfect vehicle” for facilitating anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
Concerns raised by Meyers
Meyer, who identifies as bisexual and is the parent of a 13-year-old transgender son, expressed concerns about the potential repercussions of this measure, citing examples from other states where similar legislation has been utilized to target the LGBTQ community.
Earlier this week, the Kansas Legislature passed a comprehensive bathroom bill, and subsequently, the veto of the transgender athlete measure by Governor Kelly was overridden.
Kansas has become the 20th state to implement a ban on transgender athletes participating in sports, extending the law’s coverage to both club and school sports from kindergarten through college, starting July 1st.
A step further
Furthermore, GOP lawmakers in Kansas also aimed to pass a bill on Thursday that would mandate Kansas public schools to prevent transgender girls from sharing overnight accommodations with cisgender girls and transgender boys from sharing with cisgender boys during school trips.
In addition, conservative Republicans have not abandoned their efforts to pass a bill targeting gender-affirming care for minors.
Kelly had vetoed a similar bill last year, which aimed to facilitate the removal of classroom or library materials by parents. However, supporters of the current bill have not yet secured the required two-thirds majority in both chambers to override a potential veto.
Representative Susan Estes stated, “During the committee proceedings, we heard from parents who had approached not only their child’s teacher but also the principal and higher authorities within the school district, yet their concerns were not adequately addressed.”
In a separate development, conservative Republicans successfully overrode Kelly’s veto on a bill regarding transgender athletes. This marked the third consecutive year in which the governor’s veto was overridden on similar legislation. Notably, the crucial “yes” vote came from freshman Democrat Representative Marvin Robinson, representing Kansas City.
The Kansas vote took place one day before the announcement by President Joe Biden’s administration regarding a proposed policy that would prevent schools and colleges from implementing complete bans on transgender athletes.
However, the proposal would allow for certain limitations to be set to ensure fairness.
Calls for resignation
Representative Marvin Robinson represents a district that leans heavily Democratic. He succeeded a retiring lawmaker who had voted against overriding Governor Kelly’s veto in 2022. Following Wednesday’s vote, the Kansas Young Democrats, as well as the LGBTQ+ and Progressive caucuses of the state’s Democratic Party, called for Robinson’s resignation.
In addition to supporting the “parents’ rights” measure, Marvin Robinson faced criticism for his stance from Kansas House Democratic Leader Vic Miller.
Miller expressed his satisfaction if Robinson were to resign, noting that Robinson’s voting pattern seemed to align more with the opposing party than with his own. Miller remarked that although Robinson ran as a Democrat, his actions did not reflect his party affiliation.
Robinson responds to backlash
Responding to the criticism, Robinson appeared on a conservative Kansas City radio talk show on Thursday morning. He stated that he believed he was in agreement with Governor Kelly, referencing a television commercial she aired during her reelection campaign. In the ad, Governor Kelly directly addressed the camera, stating, “Of course, men should not play girls’ sports. OK, we all agree there.” Robinson indicated that he interpreted this statement as being on the same page as the governor.
During that period, Republicans leveled accusations against Kelly, asserting that she was being untruthful regarding her stance on the issue. LGBTQ-rights advocates interpreted her statement as suggesting that the participation of transgender girls and women in girls’ sports was not problematic because they are considered female.
In response to the situation, Robinson informed The Associated Press that no member of the Democratic Party had informed him in the previous year that he was expected to vote against bills related to transgender athletes. He also disclosed that a female Democratic colleague, whom he chose not to name, had allegedly made a statement to him suggesting that he should die.
Robinson dismissed the criticism that his vote was causing harm to children, asserting that he did not condone mistreatment or discrimination towards anyone. He emphasized that all individuals are part of God’s creation and should be treated with respect and dignity.
During his radio interview, Robinson mentioned that friends had commented on his situation, likening his colleagues in the legislature to demons.
Responding to Robinson’s claim, Representative Meyer stated that none of Robinson’s fellow Democrats would have made such a statement to him, emphasizing that they care about mental health and their colleagues, even when they hold differing opinions. Meyer emphasized the importance of fostering a supportive and respectful environment, even in the face of disagreements.