Kansas bills limit accommodation of transgender students

Kansas Republican state Rep. Jan Pauls has a long history of opposing LGBTQ rights. Official photo.

Transgender students at Kansas public schools and colleges would be required to use restrooms, showers and locker rooms for their birth sex under two bills introduced in the Legislature, according to the Associated Press.

Separate but identical measures dealing with how public schools and colleges accommodate transgender students were introduced Wednesday in the House by its Federal and State Affairs Committee and in the Senate by the Ways and Means Committee.

The Kansas House Federal and State Affairs Committee is chaired by notoriously anti-LGBT Republican Jan Pauls. Pauls was a Democrat until switching to the Republican party in May of 2014.

“Both [bills] say schools and colleges must limit such facilities to use by a single gender and say sex is ‘determined by a person's chromosomes,’ according to an AP story by reporter John Hanna. “Both bills declare that they're enacting ‘student physical privacy’ protections and that allowing students to use facilities for the opposite sex could cause ‘embarrassment, shame and psychological injury.’"

“The measures would allow parents to request special accommodations such as unisex bathrooms, but in no case could a parent seek access to facilities for ‘the opposite sex.’”

“House committee Chairwoman Jan Pauls, a Hutchinson Republican, said no one has sought a hearing on her panel's measure and it's most likely intended to raise the issue with the public.”

According to an AP story in December 2015, when Pauls was selected to head the Federal and State Affairs Committee, “Pauls is an attorney who has served in the Legislature since 1991. She was a Democrat but switched parties in 2014, two years after gay-rights advocates targeted her in the Democratic primary and she barely won.

“She's opposed same-sex marriage and extending anti-discrimination protections in state law to gays and lesbians.”

According to the AP, reporting on the transgender student bathroom bill, "’It's a serious privacy concern for parents as well as students,’” Pauls said. "’We still keep male coaches out of women's locker rooms.’

“Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said passing such legislation would force transgender girls being to use boys' facilities, and transgender boys to use girls' facilities.

"’All this is going to do is single out and isolate trans kids in high school and it's going to make them vulnerable to attack, bullying, injury or possibly worse,’" Witt said.”

In May 2014, when she changed parties, the AP reported that Pauls said, "’I'm sick of having the party work against me … I don't know that they could have done enough to keep me.’

“Pauls said the party was more centrist when she was first elected when Gov. Joan Finney, also a Democrat, was in office.

"’By giving priority to those who advocate for abortion, the homosexual agenda, and even gun control, the Democrats have lost much public support and lost elected representatives because of their ever more leftist image,’ she said.

“Jason Perkey, executive director of the state Democratic Party, responded to Pauls' decision saying ‘that's her choice.’"

At the same time, Pauls took a swipe at Equality Kansas’ executive director Tom Witt. The AP report said, “Pauls specifically called out the influence within the Democratic Party of Tom Witt, executive director of the group Equality Kansas. Witt once sought to have Pauls censured by party officials over her positions on gay rights.

“Witt questioned whether Pauls could have won a Democratic primary in her district.

"’I don't care what party a bigot calls themselves,’ Witt said. ‘We will go after them, whether they call themselves Democratic, Republican or Martian.

"’Switching to the Republican Party is not going to save her.’"

Similar measures have been introduced in other state’s legislatures, but none seem as stringent as the Kansas proposal. The Senate version if SB 513, which can be viewed at the Kansas legislature’s website, www.kslegislature.org. A bill number for the House version, which is apparently identical, could not be found at press time.

AP and its writer, John Hanna, contributed to this story.

The Gayly – March 18, 2016 @ 7:40 a.m.