FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 23, 2023
CONTACT: Esmie Tseng, Communications Director, [email protected]
TOPEKA, KS – The ACLU of Kansas is calling on lawmakers to vote against bills that would eliminate ballot drop boxes, eliminate the three-day grace period for mail-in ballots to arrive at local election offices, attack gender-affirming care, exclude transgender people from certain public spaces, and discriminate against trans girls participating in sports. All of the bills saw action in either the Kansas Senate or Kansas House this week, and they now move to the other chamber for consideration.
“Kansas voters across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support measures that improve their own access to vote,” said Micah Kubic, ACLU-KS Executive Director. “These two moves demonstrate yet another, particularly egregious example of how Kansas lawmakers are more extreme and out of touch than the everyday people they represent. In this case, they are literally closing the ballot box and refusing to count votes – and shutting down the democratic machinery that allows Kansans to have their voices heard.”
The Kansas Senate approved Wednesday SB 208 to eliminate ballot drop boxes, against the recommendation of the state’s top election official Secretary of State Scott Schwab. The ban on drop boxes accommodates misinformation spread by recently elected attorney general Kris Kobach, who has a now decade-long track record of harmful and failed election policy.
SB 209, the Senate version of HB 2056 which would eliminate the three-day grace period for mail ballots, came with Senator Mike Thompson calling to “draw the line” on ballot counting, demonstrating a deep lack of understanding for the realities of how mail delivery works and the experiences of many Kansas voters.
“We urge every lawmaker to change this harmful course and vote against these two bills that would shrink voter access and infringe on the constitutional right to vote,” said Kubic. “Legislators have a responsibility to ensure that their policymaking decisions are informed by the recommendations of experts – such as the state employees who administer elections and who are most familiar with our system – as well as the needs and priorities of the Kansans they serve.”
The Kansas Senate this week also advanced two regressive and intrusive bills attacking gender-affirming care and excluding transgender people from certain public spaces, following a peak in anti-trans activity for the state’s 2023 legislative session dubbed “Hate Week.” The bills passed the Senate on Wednesday, and the ACLU of Kansas is calling on lawmakers to vote against both bills SB 233 and SB 180 when they arrive at the Kansas House so that they do not become law.
SB 233, which would enable the revocation of medical licenses of healthcare providers provide gender-affirming care to minors, resembles similar efforts in other states to ban gender-affirming care. Laws banning gender-affirming care in Alabama and Arkansas are currently enjoined by federal courts.
“We know that gender-affirming care is safe, evidence-based, and life-saving,” said Kubic. “Attacks like SB 233 embody perhaps the most egregious examples of how politicians sidestep expert medical advice, overreach the appropriate level of governmental regulation of medicine, and intrude on the deeply personal healthcare decision of trans youth and their families. All Kansans have the right to access the healthcare we need to survive and thrive without government interference—and the legislature has now made a direct attack on that right.”
SB 180, a so-called “women’s rights bill,” codifies into law a right to exclude transgender people based on outdated and inaccurate definitions of sex and families, essentially attempting to remove trans people from athletics, restrooms, locker rooms, domestic violence shelters, and other necessary spaces.
“We are deeply troubled about politicians in Kansas who want to intrude on seemingly every aspect of Kansans’ lives and who use their lawmaking power as a bludgeon on the freedom of any one of us to live according to our gender identity or otherwise be true to ourselves,” said Kubic. “We will never stop fighting for the right of every transgender Kansan to live their truth and remain part of our community.”
The Kansas House also passed HB 2238, a ban on transgender girls and women from participating in sports, despite extensive opposing testimony from Kansans in the committee hearing last week, with committee leadership cutting off some opponents and instead providing more time for out-of-state proponents of the bill.
“For several legislative sessions in Kansas now, a group of extremist lawmakers have targeted and spread baseless fears about transgender athletes,” said Kubic. “The so-called sports ban, this time HB 2338, has never been about a sincere appreciation for girls and women’s sports or a desire for gender equality – notably absent is an effort for gender parity in resources, pay equity, or funding. It is insulting to all girls and women – transgender and cisgender alike – for legislators to suddenly now remember the existence of Title IX in order to weaponize it.”
There remains no evidence of categorical dominance by trans athletes at any level of competition across the country or here in Kansas, even while a number of trans athletes of varying ages have participated in sports according to their gender for years. HB 2238 would only affect two students in Kansas, according to the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
“Just as in other sessions, proponents of each sports ban have failed to demonstrate any specific examples of harm coming from transgender girls or women participating in sports in Kansas,” said Kubic. “Instead, the real harm here – as has been every previous session – is from the politicians who seek to control, limit, and intrude on the lives of Kansas children, young adults, and their families – whether they’re college athletes or grade school students simply trying to live authentically.
“Legislative attacks against the trans community and the rhetoric that follows have consequences. As misinformation flourishes, violence against the trans community nationally and statewide is higher than ever.”
Nationally, the ACLU is tracking 321 anti-LGBTQ bills this session, 10 of which are in Kansas.
All of these bills still require action by the other chamber of the Legislature; the ACLU of Kansas calls on the Kansas Legislature to remember its duty to Kansans, uphold our shared values and the rights enshrined in the Constitution, and reject these bills attacking civil liberties.
Legislative testimony submitted by the ACLU of Kansas can be found here.
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About the ACLU of Kansas: The ACLU of Kansas is the statewide affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU of Kansas is dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For more information, visit our website at www.aclukansas.org.