". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Kansas Governor Vetoes Bill Protecting Children from Gender Transition Procedures

April 15, 2024

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (D) on Friday vetoed the “Forbidding Abusive Child Transitions Act” (SB 233), a bill which would protect minors from the deceptive advertising and harmful effects of gender transition procedures. After Kelly vetoed a similar measure in 2023, the Senate failed to override the veto, but legislators believe they now have the votes to successfully override the veto in 2024.

SB 233 would prevent health care providers from knowingly providing surgical procedures, cross-sex hormones, or puberty blockers “as a treatment for a child whose perceived gender or perceived sex is inconsistent with such child’s sex” (with a medication weaning period that last through the end of the year).

Under SB 233, any health care provider who violated these provisions would have his or her license revoked and would be liable for “any physical, psychological, emotional or physiological harms” to the minor. The child and the parents would both have a private cause of action “for damages and equitable relief” until the child turned 28, and the law would prevent liability insurance policies from covering the damages.

Additionally, SB 233 would seek to dissociate state funding from gender transition procedures for minors. State funds could not be used to provide, subsidize, or promote such procedures. “The Kansas program of medical assistance” (Medicaid) would not “reimburse or provide coverage for medication or surgery” for minors. State facilities would not be available either to provide gender transition procedures to minors or to “promote or advocate the use of social transitioning, medication or surgery,” subject to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. State employees “whose official duties include the care of children” would also be forbidden to “provide or promote the use of social transitioning, medication, or surgery” during their official time.

While other states have enacted legislation to make sure state funds are not used for medical or surgical gender transition procedures for minors, SB 233 would make Kansas the first to extend that policy to protect against the promotion of social transition. SB 233 defines “social transitioning” as “acts other than medical or surgical interventions that are undertaken for the purpose of presenting as a member of the opposite sex, including the changing of an individual’s preferred pronouns or manner of dress.”

With this prohibition against support for social transitioning, Kansas lawmakers appear to be responding to a tragic situation that occurred earlier this year in Montana. Montana child protective services took a 14-year-old out of her home because her parents did not agree with her desire to be a boy. They then took the girl across state lines to obtain gender transition hormones in Wyoming — because the Montana legislature had enacted a law protecting minors from these procedures — and eventually placed the girl in a home in Canada. SB 233’s prohibition against state employees promoting social transition directly responds to this incident by preventing state social workers from defying the will of the legislature, as they did in Montana.

In her veto message, Kelly ignored the reality that state employees or health care workers can and do flagrantly violate parental rights by providing gender transition procedures or support for a child’s social transition against the parents’ wishes. Instead, she claimed it was “this legislation” which “tramples parental rights.” She called the legislation “divisive” and characterized it as “dictating to parents how to best raise and care for their children.”

However, Kelly’s rhetoric is not faithful to the text of the law. SB 233 only constrains the actions of health care workers and state employees; its only mention of parents grants them a private cause of action to recover damages when their children are harmed by gender transition procedures.

“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,” House Speaker Dan Hawkins (R) declared on X.

In 2023, the Republican-controlled legislature overrode the governor’s vetoes on bills protecting women’s sports and single-sex spaces, but they came just short of the two-thirds majority (of elected members, not present members) necessary to override her veto of a bill to protect minors from gender transition procedures.

Yet SB 233’s proponents believe they have a better chance of success in 2024 because the bill has wider support in the legislature. On its second vote in both chambers, SB 233 passed the Kansas House (82-39) and the Kansas Senate (27-13) on March 27, meeting the two-thirds threshold in the Senate and coming two votes short in the House, although at least two House members missed the vote to support the bill. These results give bill proponents cause to believe the veto override could succeed, if they can get all the legislators together at once.

Notably, the change in SB 233’s prospects is not due to an election. Kansas has the same governor, senators, and representatives in office now as it had 12 months ago. This success is only possible because Kansas legislators engaged in a political discipline too often neglected in a climate of calcified partisanship: persuasion.

Kansas Rep. John Eplee (R), a physician and vice chair of the House health committee, was one member who was persuaded to change his vote. “While I voted against this bill last year — a similar bill — after education and more learning and more knowledge on this, I think it’s not unreasonable to do what this bill implies,” he said, “which is, under age 18, to not allow surgery or hormone blockers because of the irreversibility, oftentimes, of those treatments.” This is a basic argument, but sometimes it takes patient repetition of the truth to break through the deafening roar of misinformation spewing forth from the left-wing media.

Kansas Republicans also engaged in negotiation, another political discipline of overlooked importance. Here, adding a provision to allow minors to wean off of gender transition hormones until the end of 2024 was crucial to winning over Kansas Sen. Brenda Dietrich (R), the vote that gave SB 233 supporters a veto-proof majority in the Senate. Dietrich called it “very hard for me,” but she added, “because they were able to negotiate not stopping that therapy immediately and made some changes to allow for gradual reduction, I vote yes.”

Here again, proponents of SB 233 achieved progress through dialogue. Many other states have such weaning exemptions, which do not fundamentally derail or weaken the bill’s protections for minors. By incorporating this acceptable amendment, they were able to win over a vote crucial to achieving a supermajority.

“In a lot of cases, [kids are] being rushed into a situation that they don’t understand. They think it’s going to help and then realize later that it’s not, and that’s a very sad situation because there’s no reversing once you start down that path,” said bill sponsor Sen. Mike Thompson (R). “We just want to give these kids a fighting chance to really think about and understand what they’re doing.”

Each legislative chamber has 30 days to override the veto.

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.