Kansas lawmakers send bill banning gender-affirming care for minors to governor’s desk

March 28, 2024

Kansas could become the latest state to ban gender-affirming health care for minors after its Republican-dominated Legislature sent a bill prohibiting transgender youth from accessing treatments such as puberty blockers and hormones to the governor’s desk.

The bill, which passed both the state House and Senate on Wednesday, is expected to be rejected by Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who vetoed a similar measure last year. Republicans, who hold supermajorities in both chambers, failed to override Kelly’s veto of that bill and another measure to ban transgender women and girls from female school sports teams after several GOP moderates voted against overriding the governor.

The state Senate on Wednesday passed this year’s bill, Senate Bill 233, with a veto-proof majority, while the House, which advanced the measure in an 82-39 party-line vote, fell slightly short. Two House Republicans that were absent for Wednesday’s vote — state Reps. Michael Houser and Samantha Poetter Parshall — have previously voted in favor of the legislation and would give the House the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.

If Republicans succeed in overriding a likely veto from Kelly, Kansas will be the 25th state to ban gender-affirming care for minors, and the third to do so this year. Laws restricting access to care in at least four states are not currently being enforced because they are tied up in the courts.

Legal challenges brought against state-level bans on gender-affirming care have been met with mixed results, however, and federal appeals courts have split on whether such bans are constitutional. Advocates and opponents have called for the Supreme Court to weigh in.

Kansas Republicans on Wednesday said a ban on gender-affirming care for minors is needed in the Sunflower State — surrounded on all but one side by states that have adopted similar restrictions — to protect children from making medical decisions they may later regret.

“Today, the Senate took a firm stand in support of helping and not harming children by making it clear that radical transgender ideology and the mutilation of minors is not legal nor welcome in Kansas,” said state Senate President Ty Masterson, a Republican, in a statement that followed Wednesday’s Senate vote.

Ahead of the vote, Kansas Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes (D) called on Republicans in the upper chamber to “show some humanity and kindness” by voting against the bill.

“Families of trans kids are beside themselves. They’re scared, they’re tired and they’re worried that we will lose more loved ones if this bill passes,” Sykes said Wednesday.

“To our beloved Kansans who are listening to this debate on this bill, I hope that you know there are people in this room that are listening to you,” she said. “We know that you’re getting the care that you need so that you can live your life fully. We understand what this law will do to you and your families if it passes.”

Gender-affirming health care for transgender minors and adults is considered medically necessary and often life-saving by professional organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AMA in December reaffirmed its opposition to laws that “criminalize, prohibit or otherwise impede” the provision of evidence-based gender-affirming medical care.