Kansas on Thursday became the first state to pass a bill defining a woman as “a human female,” preventing courts and government officials from redefining the word to include biological men who identify as women.
The measure, which is being called “the most sweeping transgender bathroom law in the U.S.,” defines a person’s sex as their “biological sex, either male or female, at birth” based on their reproductive systems.
The Kansas Legislature voted 84-40 and the Senate voted 28-12 to override Democrat Governor Laura Kelly’s April 20 veto of Senate Bill 180, known as the Women’s Bill of Rights.
“The terms ‘woman’ and ‘girl’ refer to human females, and the terms ‘man’ and ‘boy’ refer to human males,” SB 180 states. The new law, which will take effect on July 1, will apply to schools, locker rooms, prisons, domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers.
The measure also has accommodations for those born with sexual development disorders.
Independent Women’s Voice (IWV) spokeswoman Riley Gaines applauded the Kansas Legislature’s achievement on Twitter.
“This bill doesn’t create any new laws or prohibit laws from being made. It simply codifies the term ‘woman’ to apply to all legislature that uses that word,” the former competitive swimmer said. “It brings clarity/uniformity to Kansas law. Thank you to @IWV for working so hard to get this passed! This is a huge win!!”
This bill doesn't create any new laws or prohibit laws from being made. It simply codifies the term "woman" to apply to all legislature that uses that word. It brings clarity/uniformity to Kansas law. Thank you to @IWV for working so hard to get this passed! This is a huge win!!
— Riley Gaines (@Riley_Gaines_) April 27, 2023
When she vetoed the bill, Gov. Kelly argued that it was discriminatory and would hurt the state’s ability to attract businesses, the Associated Press reported.
The Kansas law is different than most other states’ laws in that it legally defines male and female based on the sex assigned at birth and declares that “distinctions between the sexes” in bathrooms and other spaces serves “the important governmental objectives” of protecting “health, safety and privacy.” Earlier this week, North Dakota enacted a law that prohibits transgender children and adults from having access to bathrooms, locker rooms or showers in dormitories of state-run colleges and correctional facilities.
Kansas’ law doesn’t create a new crime, impose criminal penalties or fines for violations or even say specifically that a person has a right to sue over a transgender person using a facility aligned with their gender identity. Many supporters acknowledged before it passed that they hadn’t considered how it will be administered.
The bill is written broadly enough to apply to any separate spaces for men and women and, Kelly’s office said, could prevent transgender women from participating in state programs for women, including for female hunters and farmers. As written, it also prevents transgender people from changing the gender markers on their driver’s licenses — though it wasn’t clear whether that change would occur without a lawsuit.
“As a woman and a female athlete, I can attest first hand to the importance of women having private spaces when safety and fairness are at risk,” said Gaines. “Now that the Women’s Bill of Rights will be Kansas law, women have clarity that when they enter a space labeled for ‘women’, biological men will not be inside.”