Wichita Rep. Michael Capps’ bill requiring students to participate in sports programs in accordance with biological gender at birth has been denounced as discriminatory, repugnant, mean-spirited and dangerous.
The list was a representative sample of printable objections to House Bill 2589.
"I think that his bill puts a target on the backs of kids. I described it as repugnant,“ Lenexa Democratic Rep. Brandon Woodard said on the Capitol Insider, a podcast of The Topeka Capital-Journal. ”One, trans athletes are already competing in our high schools. Two, I don't know why we're going to some sort of crotch watch in our high schools.“
Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Shawnee Democrat, said enactment of the legislation filed by Capps would require school districts to formally ostracize LGBTQ youth.
“Is that going to bring on depression? Damn right,” she said. “Like, 'Maybe I shouldn't be on this earth and maybe I need to take my life.' ”
Ruiz and Woodard are the first two openly LGBTQ legislators in Kansas.
Capps, a Republican with a libertarian orientation, said the bill was intended to prevent discrimination against boys and girls in school sports. At this point, the proposal also endorsed by six of Capps’ colleagues is idling in the House Judiciary Committee.
“We’ve got to have societal norms. This really was an equality bill,” Capps said. “We’ve got scholarships on the line. There is a biological difference in muscle mass, in strength and in capability between boys and girls.”
Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said nonconforming children had been competing in school sports across the state for years. He said nobody was making an issue of what the students accomplished until the bill introduced by Capps, who was accused by a state agency of “emotional abuse” of foster children by allowing them to sit in his lap and rub his chest. The case was dropped on technical grounds.
"Capps has his own issues with inappropriate behavior with children. He's probably not the best guy to be talking about this,“ Witt said.
Meanwhile, the House and Senate Republican leadership haven’t permitted advancement of a bill that would prohibit housing, employment and public accommodation discrimination in Kansas based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It has support of 56 legislators, including Woodard and Ruiz.
“Kansas is one of 15 states that you can still be fired for being gay,“ Woodard said.
Also stalled at the Capitol is a bill to outlaw “conversion therapy,” which is the scientifically discredited practice of using psychological or spiritual interventions to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity. The American Medical Association has endorsed state and federal bans on such counseling.
"Conversion therapy is a pseudo-medical intervention into a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity and it can include things all the way up to electroshock therapy on little kids,“ Witt said.
Ruiz said lack of traction on anti-discrimination bills in the Kansas Legislature reflected an unwillingness by some lawmakers to take public stands that could have political consequences for them.
"It can't just be the three of us that are always, you know, going to the chairs or talking to committee members,“ she said. ”All of us need to be doing that. We help support our other legislative colleagues with all kinds of bills, you know, and I don't always see the reciprocal. I would like to see more of that.“