Kansas now has what may be the most sweeping transgender bathroom law in the United States. On Thursday, Republican legislators enacted the law overriding the Democratic governor’s veto of the measure. However, confusion remains over how will be the law enforced. The vote received a support of 84-40, giving those backing it exactly the two-thirds majority they needed to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s action. In Senate on Wednesday, the law had received 28-12, and the new law will take effect July 1.

Currently, in eight other states laws prohibit transgender people from using the restrooms associated with their gender identities. However, most of them apply only to schools. But the Kansas law applies also to locker rooms, prisons, domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centres.

The Kansas law covers a much larger area and legally defines male and female based on a person’s reproductive anatomy at birth. The law states that “distinctions between the sexes” in bathrooms and other spaces are imperative to serve “the important governmental objectives of protecting the health, safety and privacy.” 

Earlier this week, North Dakota enacted a law prohibiting transgender children and adults from accessing bathrooms, locker rooms or showers in dormitories of state-run colleges and correctional facilities.

Confusion looms over administering the law since it doesn’t create a new crime, or impose criminal penalties or fines for violations. The law doesn’t mention whether a person has the right to sue a transgender person using a facility aligned with their gender identity. 

Kelly’s office believed that the law could prevent transgender women from participating in state programmes for women. It also prevents transgender people from changing the gender markers on their driver’s licenses. 

Critics see the new law as an attempt to legally erase transgender people. They say that it also aims to refuse to recognise gender fluid, gender non-conforming and non-binary people. Since the law is unclear, it can also lead to harassment of transgender people, critics say.

The latest law is part of a countrywide attempt by the Republicans to roll back LGBTQ+ rights, particularly transgender rights. At least 21 US states, including Kansas, prohibit female transgender athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s sports. Fourteen states, excluding Kansas, restrict or ban gender-affirming care for minors.

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