LGBTQ advocates denounce draft athletics bill

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The state’s leading advocates for the LGBTQ community on Thursday pre-emptively struck against a proposed bill that they say would discriminate against transgender student athletes.

Equality Kansas obtained a draft copy of a bill being circulated by Republican Rep. Michael Capps that would require high school and middle school athletes to compete in a gender class based on their biological gender at birth.

The draft bill, which cover members of the Kansas State High School Activities Association, would prohibit students whose biological gender at birth was male from competing in interscholastic sports exclusively for females and vice versa.

“This bill’s sponsor already has a reputation of inappropriate behavior with children,” said Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas.

“He is now targeting children with a mean-spirited, dangerous, and discriminatory bill,” said Witt, who was joined at a news conference Thursday morning state Reps. Brandon Woodard and Susan Ruiz.

They called on Capps – and any sponsors he might have – to not introduce the legislation.

Witt’s comments alluded to allegations that Capps had “inappropriate contact” and overinvolvement with two children as a volunteer for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Sedgwick County.

The Department for Children and Families confirmed it investigated Capps and that the allegations were affirmed.

However, the finding was later reversed on appeal because of a technical error.

If Capps “were truly interested in the safety and welfare of children, he would work to end discrimination against the most vulnerable kids in our schools,” Witt said.

“Instead he wants to put a target on the back of every transgender and gender non-conforming child in Kansas – one of the populations most vulnerable to discrimination, bullying, and violence, and suicide.”

Capps acknowledged having the bill drafted. He said the draft bill was intended to provide protection for female athletes.

“A biological girl wants to be able to be in a competitive sport with other biological girls,” Capps said.

“It’s fairness in competition,” he said. “Biological girls do not want to be playing against biological boys.”

Asked if the bill was discriminatory, Capps said, “There’s nothing in the language that’s designed to be harmful to anybody from the LGBTQ community.”

Woodard said the proposed bill was dangerous.

“Bills like this are why young LGBTQ kids die by suicide,” said Woodard, who alongside Ruiz were the first members of the LGBTQ community elected to the Kansas Legislature two years ago.

Equality Kansas took steps to undercut the legislation before it was introduced.

“How long are we supposed to wait for the other side to come after us?” Witt asked. “This is something we deal with every year. We’ve got these anti-LGBT bills being introduced and we are going to fight the stuff every inch of ground.”

Capps is working on the bill months before he faces a primary challenge from retired Army Capt. Patrick Penn, who already has the backing of other leading conservatives in his district.

Last week, Capps testified for a bill requiring government buildings to post the motto, “In God We Trust.”