Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoes ban on gender-affirming care for minors

Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly on Friday vetoed a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, setting up a showdown with Republican state lawmakers.

Kelly said in a statement Friday that the measure “tramples parental rights,” adding that “the last place I would want to be as a politician is between a parent and a child who needed medical care of any kind.”

“This divisive legislation targets a small group of Kansans by placing government mandates on them and dictating to parents how to best raise and care for their children,” Kelly said in the statement. “I do not believe that is a conservative value, and it’s certainly not a Kansas value.”

The measure now heads back to the state Legislature, where the GOP majority likely has enough votes to override the governor’s block. Lawmakers are set to return for a veto session on April 29.

The governor vetoed a similar bill last year that targeted physicians who provide some gender-affirming care to minors but unlike then, there appears to be enough support in the state Legislature to override Friday’s veto. The state Senate passed the bill late last month with a veto-proof majority while the House, which had multiple absences, was two votes shy. Two absent Republican state representatives previously voted in favor of the legislation.

Kansas House Speaker Daniel Hawkins denounced the governor’s move Friday, warning, “House Republicans stand ready to override her veto to protect vulnerable Kansas kids.”

“As we watch other states, nations, and organizations reverse course on these experimental procedures on children, Laura Kelly will most surely find herself on the wrong side of history with her reckless veto of this common-sense protection for Kansas minors,” Hawkins said in a statement shared on X.

While state Republicans contend that the measure would protect kids, Kansas Democrats have slammed the bill as an infringement on the rights of transgender people – arguments that align with how both parties nationally have tackled the hot-button issue. With the bill through the Legislature, Kansas has joined at least 20 states that have moved to curb gender-affirming care for minors as transgender rights have become a marquee issue for the Republican Party.

The measure would ban gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth in Kansas, including puberty blockers and surgeries, though surgical procedures are rarely performed on children. Any minor currently receiving such care would be allowed to continue treatment until the end of the year if a physician demonstrates that immediately stopping care would endanger the child and creates a plan to phase out treatment.

The measure would also allow civil lawsuits to be filed against doctors, who would have their licenses revoked if they provide gender-affirming treatment to a minor and would not be covered by their liability insurance for any damages that stem from offering such care.

The bill would also bar the use of state funds, such as Medicaid, to promote treatments, and state employees would be prohibited from recognizing a minor’s preferred pronouns if it doesn’t match the sex assigned at their birth.

This measure expands previous efforts by the GOP-controlled Legislature that curtail transgender rights. Last year, Kansas lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto to enact an anti-trans sports ban, which prohibits trans women and girls in the state from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender from kindergarten through college.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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