The House voted 81–41 in favor of an override, falling just three votes short of overriding the veto via a two-thirds majority.
Known as The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, the bill was introduced by Republicans in February 2021 and would have made sure that “interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic teams or sports that are sponsored by public educational institutions” barred transgender individuals from competing on school sports teams that are designated for females.
GOP lawmakers said the legislation was needed to create fairness and ensure that girls were granted equal opportunities when it comes to college athletic scholarships.
However, the bill was vetoed by Kelly, a Democrat, on April 15 who said it could prove harmful to students. A similar bill was vetoed by Kelly last year.
“We all want a fair and safe place for our kids to play and compete,” Kelly wrote in a veto message earlier this month. “However, this bill didn’t come from the experts at our schools, our athletes, or the Kansas State High School Activities Association. It came from politicians trying to score political points.”
The Senate had voted 28–10 on Tuesday to override the governor’s veto but ultimately the House failed to override Kelly’s veto.
The vote came just one day after Kansas state Rep. Cheryl Helmer, a Republican, had sent an email to a constituent saying that she felt uncomfortable sharing a restroom with state Rep. Stephanie Byers, a Democrat, the only trans person in the Kansas legislature, whom she referred to as “a huge transgender female” in the message, according to the Kansas Reflector.
“Now, personally I do not appreciate the huge transgender female who is now in our restrooms in the Capitol,” Helmer wrote in the April 23 message to a graduate student at the University of Kansas who identifies as transfeminine. “It is quite uncomforting. I have asked the men if they would like a woman in their restroom and they freaked out.”
In that same message, Helmer also alleged that trans people are assaulting “wee little girls in elementary and middle and high school.”
Also on Thursday, the House failed to override the governor’s veto on the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” also known as SB 58, which would have allowed parents to challenge classroom materials, activities, and curriculum that they believe may harm their child due to their beliefs, values, or principles.
Republican state Sen. Renee Erickson told Washington-based Just the News on Tuesday that the SB 58 bill focuses on “reaffirming that parents are the most important educator in their child’s lives and affirming the right that they have to know what is being taught in schools,” Erickson said.
But critics feared it would put more of a burden on both teachers and schools.
Ultimately, the House voted 72–50, leaving supporters 12 votes short of a two-thirds majority.