TOPEKA — A newsletter published Monday by a conservative state lawmaker that criticizes LGBTQ people and policies has left gay-and transgender-rights advocates with questions about his state policy ideas and displeased with his comments.
In a newsletter he published online Monday, Republican Rep. Francis Awerkamp, St. Marys, detailed his thoughts on legislative issues, such as taxes, education and abortion, and spoke against what he called the “homosexual agenda” and organizers who brought students to the Capitol building in March to advocate for LGBTQ people.
In the newsletter, Awerkamp said several “attempts to undermine parental rights or advance the progressive agenda against the natural law were defeated this year.”
The newsletter didn’t point to a specific bill, and Awerkamp declined to be interviewed Wednesday.
Equality Kansas, a pro-LGBTQ group, supported several bills during the legislative session that would have barred taxpayer-funded campus organizations from removing members because of religious differences, banned conversion therapy for minors, repealed laws that only support heterosexual marriage, prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and repealed a law making same-sex relations illegal, according to a summary paper from the group.
In his newsletter, Awerkamp said he encountered a group of students at the Capitol advocating for transgender issues and said “a man is a man, a woman is a woman, and marriage is between a man and a woman, and this is a reality that we can not change.” He said a trans woman teacher “quickly led the students away” after that. In the newsletter, he said Kansas should “stop using taxpayer dollars to teach, promote and encourage the homosexual agenda.”
Stephanie Mott, Equality Kansas vice chair, said she didn’t know of any government-funded efforts to advocate for LGBTQ issues.
“I’m sure that there are not,” Mott said.
Equality Kansas Executive Director Tom Witt said the only trans teacher present at the event in March was wearing pants and didn’t speak with Awerkamp. He said Awerkamp’s description of the teacher as a “man wearing a skirt ‘identifying’ as a woman” was “beyond offensive and demeaning.”
“I think everybody’s entitled to their opinion, and I’m thankful that this isn’t the majority opinion in the United States anymore,” Mott said.
Witt said Awerkamp should recognize same-sex marriage is legal in the U.S.
Mott, a trans woman, said telling trans people how they should identify could increase their risk of committing suicide or being abused. She added trans people have a right to access their government and demonstrate at the Capitol.
Awerkamp’s newsletter does not dispute the group’s right to be at the Statehouse.