The Kansas Republican Party has voted to "oppose all efforts to validate transgender identity."
The party’s state committee endorsed that statement on Saturday and also said it recognizes the dignity of those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.
The committee approved a resolution on human sexuality after a debate where some questioned the state party’s priorities. The lead proponent of the resolution said he was motivated by love.
In the resolution, the party affirms "God’s design for gender as determined by biological sex and not by self-perception." The document also opposes efforts to surgically or hormonally alter an individual’s body to conform with "perceived gender identity."
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The committee approved the resolution on a voice vote. The committee is made up of about 180 people, with delegates from each congressional district, along with elected officials and leaders of groups affiliated with the party.
Eric Teetsel, who proposed the resolution, said the party needs to be willing to tell people what is true and good.
"And ultimately, an ideology that says you can determine your own gender identity is broken and it’s going to lead to a lot of pain, and that’s why it’s important to bring us back to what we know to be true and good," Teetsel said in an interview.
Teetsel is a member of the state party committee and is also president of the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas.
The resolution was one of several approved by the party during its state convention, including one also proposed by Teetsel that emphasizes religious freedom.
Approached about the resolution, Equality Kansas said it was "incredibly disappointed" that Kansas Republicans had promoted "such an undignified and crass assault."
"This is a cheap election year attack by Sam Brownback's son-in-law, and yet another attempt to dehumanize those who do not fit inside the narrow world view of Brownback, his family, and his wing of the Republican party," Equality Kansas director Tom Witt said in a statement.
Teetsel said the inclusion of language affirming the dignity of all people, including those who are LGBT, was critical and noted that the resolution also begins with that affirmation.
"Ultimately, we are motivated by love. It is concern for the well-being of others that drives us to seek out what is true and not just for society, but for them personally," Teetsel said.
The Kansas Republican Party platform is silent on transgender individuals but does say that "our children’s future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage," and opposes same-sex marriage.
"You go back to the platform, that's what I always do on stuff like this," Kansas Republican Party chairman Kelly Arnold said.
"You go back to, what does the Republican Party stand for? What does our platform stand for? And I think that the committee felt that it aligned with our platform and so, they supported it."
Kansas Republican officials have taken several steps in the past few years that have drawn condemnation from supporters of LGBT rights. Some of those moves have drawn national attention.
In 2015, then-Gov. Sam Brownback repealed an executive order that prohibited discrimination against state employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The cancellation of the order became an issue during his confirmation process this fall to become ambassador at-large for international religious freedom.
The Kansas Senate in 2016 also approved a resolution "supporting student privacy and safety" after a federal directive said transgender students should be allowed to use the restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
Paige Hungate, the student body president of Wichita State University, spoke against the resolution on Saturday. She said the party has been moving toward rebranding in hope of gaining more members, but feared the resolution would simply polarize the party.
Hungate provided The Eagle with a copy of her speech to the committee, where she said she thinks of the Republican Party as welcoming and not condemning. Many fellow students agree with the principles of the party but do not align with Republicans because of social stances, she said.
"To me, it is not a pressing issue for us to state that we believe in only two genders. This hurts us more than it helps us; this makes us seem less willing to accept individuals into the party who may not identify with that stance," Hungate said.
Teetsel called Hungate a friend but pushed back on her concerns about the party’s brand. If the Republican Party only cares about its brand, "then this is all a waste of time," he said.
The party exists because of principles, he said.
"The Republican Party was founded on certain principles and we continue to stand on certain fundamental, timeless truths about the nature of man and what is good and how we should operate as a society," Teetsel said. "And we can’t get caught up in fads and trends and worries about what people might think about us on a particular issue."
The state committee meeting where the resolution was approved came just a few hours before Republicans gathered to watch the party’s first gubernatorial primary debate of the year. The issue was not raised during the debate.