Kansas legislators passed sweeping anti-trans legislation this week that has a religious-right coalition’s fingerprints all over it.
On Tuesday, the Republican-led Kansas legislature passed Senate Bill 180—which would make it illegal for trans people to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity and illegal to change their name or gender identity on drivers’ licenses—sending it to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s desk with a veto-proof majority.
SB 180, which opponents say attempts to erase trans people from society, was introduced by Kansas state Sen. Renee Erickson. Erickson is a graduate of the Family Policy Alliance’s Statesmen Academy, which promises to “equip [participants] with foundational Christian worldview training.” The Family Policy Alliance is also a leading partner in the anti-trans coalition that has dubbed itself “Promise to America’s Children.”
Formed in 2021, “Promise to America’s Children” vows to “protect” children who it says “are under attack” from “politicized ideas about sexual orientation and gender identity ideology.” The 23 groups that make up the coalition portray feminism and LGBTQ equality as threats to the Christian right’s narrow vision of “the natural family.” With behemoth partner organizations like Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation, the coalition drafts model legislation and works with aligned state lawmakers to introduce them in their state legislatures.
A day after passage of SB 180, the state’s Republican-controlled Senate also overrode Kelly’s veto of House Bill 2238, which bars trans kids from playing on sports teams according to their gender identity and which trans rights advocates worry could lead to state-mandated genital inspections of some athletes. That legislation includes identical language to a 2020 Idaho bill drafted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a leading partner of the anti-trans coalition. It was also introduced by Rep. Barb Wasinger, a participant in Family Policy Alliance’s Statesman Academy who has signaled her support of the anti-trans coalition by signing its “promise.”
The anti-trans coalition’s website lists six signatories from Kansas in total—state Reps. Barb Wasinger, Steven Howe, Lisa Moser, Eric Smith, Mike Thompson, and Susan Humphries—all of whom voted to pass both both pieces of anti-trans legislation.
The anti-trans coalition also had some influence in testimony. The groups that testified in support of SB 180, which makes it illegal for trans people to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity, included Kansas Family Voice, a state chapter of the Family Policy Alliance and a state partner of the anti-trans coalition. The Family Policy Alliance has worked with at least one of the other groups that testified in support of the anti-trans legislation: Women’s Liberation Front, also known as WoLF, a self-described radical feminist organization that criticizes transgender people as a threat to cisgender women.
The pairing of self-proclaimed feminists and ardent anti-feminists is strategic. In 2017, Right Wing Watch reported on the anti-trans strategies and tactics being discussed at the religious-right Values Voters Summit. Among them was a suggestion that anti-trans activists avoid using religious language because secular arguments would be more successful at building alliances with anti-trans feminists.
Fomenting opposition to trans girls’ participation in sports has been used to build momentum for even more aggressive anti-trans legislation. A 2021 Right Wing Watch investigation found that “Promise to America’s Children” was focusing attention on trans athletes while working behind the scenes to draft and pass legislation that would not only keep trans girls and women from playing on sports teams, but also remove access to gender-affirming care for trans youth.