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Editorial Roundup: Kansas


Kansas City Star. April 6, 2023.

Editorial: With trans ban, Kansas lawmakers are teaching kids what the GOP of today is all about

When talking about the laws that govern our rights, we’re talking about power. Pure and simple.

Kansas Republicans have decided out of thin and undetectable air that transgender young people need to be targeted. With their consolidated power in the Legislature, they’ve decided to stand on the necks of a tiny, especially vulnerable minority of children.

The Kansas House and Senate each voted Wednesday to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s third veto of a bill banning student-athletes who were assigned male at birth from competing in girls and women’s sports. Just hours apart, Republican politicians in both chambers — joined by Democratic state Rep. Marvin Robinson of Kansas City — decided to show voters that this was one of the most pressing issues facing Kansans.

This was pressing even though the legislation will affect three high school student-athletes in the state, according according to the Kansas State High School Sports and Activities Association. If there were only three students enrolled in a school, the board would shut that school down. If there were only three students enrolled in a class, the school would shut that class down.

No matter how you look at it, three people in a population of almost 3 million can’t possibly be worth the Legislature making it into the concern of the century.

Now, in all fairness, it’s not only Kansas that feels that need to put trans students in its crosshairs. Just so far in 2023, GOP lawmakers are putting anti-trans bills in play in almost every state in the nation.

What does it say about Kansas wanting to be on that leading edge of that trend?

And what is it about trans students wanting to play ball that’s so horrifying and threatening?

If our elected officials have the numbers and the power to single out trans kids, what other issues are they not using their collective power and reflected value system to address? Where are the votes on guns in classrooms, teacher pay or the many poverty and transportation issues that touch a large swath of Kansas students? Where are the bills on bullying, educational achievement or racial and religious discrimination? Why is the Legislature not more concerned about the lingering impact of COVID-19 on test scores, on whether students have lost educational footing because of lockdowns, and what sociological setbacks need to be addressed as we come out of the worst of a deadly pandemic?

We know the answer: None of these is bankable to rile up the GOP base. The ugly truth is that politicians set their sights on kids who take up few to no resources in the school system.

Members of the Kansas GOP can pat themselves on the back and high-five one another other for battling a nonexistent crisis that should be dealt with by schools and athletic leagues, not the government. They can pick on and bully trans students — and make no mistake, that’s exactly what this is.

And it’s going to open the door to an overzealous softball mom demanding that a tall, athletic 14-year-old on the team that just beat her child’s be subjected to an examination of her genitals.

Think that’s impossible? Don’t kid yourself. How else is the law enforceable?

So what’s the Republicans’ long game, and at what cost?

Whether you’ve raised your own children or have just been raised yourself, we all know that kids, teens and young adults are always figuring out their place in the world. Science is learning more every day about how the lines dividing male and female aren’t always a stark binary. “Sex can be much more complicated than it at first seems,” Scientific American recently told us.

Millennials and Generation Z have come of age in a more enlightened era when more of our LGBT family, friends and neighbors are refusing ever to hide in the closet in the first place. And those young people have never known the Republican Party of Bob Dole, or George W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan — leaders who spoke the language (if not always taking the action) of inclusivity, of pulling more people into the big tent the GOP used to say it wanted.

Instead, the schoolchildren of 2023 have seen nothing but the GOP of Fox News and right-wing social media, seething with scorched-earth grievance and boosted by a seven-year bump of Donald Trump adrenaline.

Those kids aren’t likely to forget what they’re living through now as they grow up — and start voting.

With this pointless bill, the Legislature didn’t just keep three student-athletes from participating in school sports — which is bad enough all by itself. It practically sent a personalized message to each and every transgender youth and adult in the state: You are not valued like every other Kansas resident. And politicians are just fine with codifying discriminatory abuse into law.