March 9 (Reuters) - Kansas' Republican-led legislature on Thursday passed a bill that would ban transgender athletes from playing girls or women's school sports if they were born male.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, is expected to veto the bill, as she vetoed two similar measures in the previous two years. But this year the bill appears to have enough support to override any veto. The governor's office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Supporters of the bill and those like it say it is necessary to ensure a level playing field in women's sports. Opponents and LGBTQ advocates say the laws are unnecessary, given the small number of transgender athletes in school sports.
Transgender rights have been pushed to the forefront of the U.S. culture wars and political standoffs between Republicans and Democrats. At least 18 states have passed or enacted legislation preventing transgender students from playing on school sports teams matching their gender identity.
The Kansas Senate on Thursday voted 28-11 to pass the bill. The House voted 82-40 to pass the measure on Feb. 23. To override a veto, two-thirds of each chamber would have vote against the governor's action.
The latest version of the bill bars transgender girls and women from female sports teams in public elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges, as well as from private school teams that compete against public schools.
Several Republican-led states have also passed laws that ban gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth. In some cases, parents and doctors can be charged with crimes if that treatment is provided.
Other bills before state legislatures include bans on teachers from using pronouns that match a student's gender identity, and requirements that transgender people use bathrooms corresponding with their gender at birth.