The Kansas legislature passed a “Women’s Bill of Rights” yesterday which legally defines male and female based on a person’s reproductive anatomy at birth, and stipulates Kansans must use public restrooms that correspond to their biological sex. Lawmakers overrode Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of SB 180 voting 84-40 in the House and 28-12 in the Senate enacting one of the nation’s broadest protection bills for women in public bathrooms. The law will take effect on July 1.
The Kansas law differs from other states’ bathroom protections by actually defining “man” and “woman.” The bill biologically defines the word “woman” as a “human female,” and goes further stating “female means an individual whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova [a female egg].”
The law attributes the “distinction between the sexes” as “substantially related to the important governmental objectives of protecting the health, safety and privacy of individuals,” the bill reads. While most other states’ bathroom laws apply just to schools, the Kansas bill specifically protects women in restrooms, locker rooms, prisons, domestic violence shelters, and rape crisis centers. The bill also applies to “other areas,” an intentionally broad term to cover a myriad of situations where “biology, safety, or privacy” justify separate spaces for men and women.
In addition, the measure essentially prevents government officials from classifying biological men who call themselves women, and the other way around, as anything other than their biological sex when collecting vital statistics throughout the state.
Supporters of the bill say its enactment is a direct response to people’s concerns about people uncomfortably sharing bathrooms, locker rooms and other spaces with people who are clearly the opposite biological sex.
“We want to have safety,” said Kansas House Health Committee Chair Brenda Landwehr, who voted for the bill. “This will protect women’s spaces currently reserved for women and men’s spaces [also].”
According to Independent Women’s Voice, a non-profit advocacy group focused on advancing women and freedom, the Kansas law “will prevent judges, unelected bureaucrats, and administrators in Kansas from unilaterally redefining the word ‘woman’ to mean anyone who ‘identifies as a woman.’ The Women’s Bill of Rights preserves the legislature’s authority to determine whether, and in what circumstances, rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, athletic teams, locker rooms, and dormitories should remain single-sex…,” the organization stated.
Riley Gaines, a 12-time All-American swimmer, stated, “Today is a huge win for Kansas women! I applaud the Legislature for their leadership and commitment to protecting the sex-based rights of women. As a woman and a female athlete, I can attest firsthand to the importance of women having private spaces when safety and fairness are at risk. 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.”
The Kansas legislature anticipates a lawsuit to challenge the law. However, a Florida public school district’s bathroom policy, which barred students from using bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex, survived a legal challenge at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County, the Court ruled 7-4 that a policy based on biological sex does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or the federal Title IX law. Drew Adams, a biological girl in Florida, wanted to use the boys’ restrooms instead of either the girls’ restrooms or the single-stall restrooms that the school made available for students.
In the majority opinion, Judge Barbara Lagoa wrote, “Because the bathroom policy divides students into two groups, both of which include transgender students, there is a ‘lack of identity’ between the policy and transgender status, as the bathroom options are ‘equivalent to those provided to all’ students of the same biological sex…The contention that the School Board’s bathroom policy relied on impermissible stereotypes associated with Adams’s transgender status is wrong. The bathroom policy does not depend in any way on how students act or identify.”
The Appeals Court ruled that the school district’s bathroom policy also does not violate Title IX because the federal civil rights law provides a provision with respect to “living facilities,” and the regulations implementing Title IX explicitly permit schools receiving federal funds to provide “separate toilet, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex.”
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This is common sense legislation by Kansas lawmakers that dispenses with the false, unscientific idea that people can change their gender. This ‘Women’s Bill of Rights’ protects the privacy and safety of men and women. Biology is fixed at birth and enacting laws based on fact not fiction is what every state should be doing.”