Politics & Government

Kansas Senate will vote on transgender bathrooms next week, Wagle says

Kansas Senate at the Statehouse in Topeka(Jan. 28, 2016)
Kansas Senate at the Statehouse in Topeka(Jan. 28, 2016) File photo

State Senate President Susan Wagle said Thursday that her chamber will vote on a resolution next week opposing federal guidelines that allow transgender students to use restrooms corresponding to their adopted gender identity.

The proposed resolution is in response to a federal guidance letter sent to school districts nationwide last week. The letter from the departments of Justice and Education advised schools that requiring transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their sex at birth violates Title IX, the federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in schools.

Wagle’s resolution will hit the Senate floor Wednesday at the “sine die” session, which is usually a ceremonial end of the legislative year.

Eleven other states sued the federal government Wednesday seeking to overturn the Obama administration directive. Wagle, R-Wichita, said in a letter to Republican senators that she wants Kansas to get on board with that.

“I wanted to inform you that I will be sponsoring a resolution that will run on sine die supporting student privacy and urging Attorney General Schmidt to join the multi-state lawsuit,” Wagle’s letter said. “The resolution is currently being drafted by the Revisors and once it is completed I will forward it for your review and welcome co-sponsors.”

A parallel effort is under way in the House, although a spokeswoman for House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said he is reluctant to consider a resolution when lawmakers meet Wednesday. He has asked lawmakers to join him in signing a letter that objects to the federal policy guidance.

House conservatives are, however, drafting their own resolution and hope to get enough co-sponsors to change Merrick’s mind.

Supporters of the resolution frame the issue as a matter of student privacy.

Opponents say limiting students to birth-sex-specific facilities might endanger transgender students.

Thomas Vitkus, a Friends University student and transgender male, asks the Wichita City Council to rewrite a city ordinance that makes it a crime for him to use the men's restroom. (Dion Lefler/The Wichita Eagle/May 17, 2016)

Opponents rally at the Kansas Capitol against a bill to require transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender at birth. Video by Dion Lefler / April 29, 2016

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

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