Jun 21, 2020 6:00 PM

Republicans attack transgender rights in Kansas Senate race

Posted Jun 21, 2020 6:00 PM
Kris Kobach -photo Kobach for Senate Campaign
Kris Kobach -photo Kobach for Senate Campaign

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three Republicans running seeking their party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in a competitive Kansas primary have launched ads opposing transgender rights.

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said if elected he would offer legislation to withhold federal funds from institutions that allow transgender students in women’s sports.

“It’s important to remember these trans athletes destroyed the dreams of female athletes who trained their whole lives for the honor of winning that championship only to have it snatched away by a biological male,” Kobach said in a campaign online video.

Candidate Bob Hamilton
Candidate Bob Hamilton

Two of Kobach’s Republican rivals have traded their own barbs over transgender issues.

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall attacked businessman Bob Hamilton in an ad that claims Hamilton “bankrolled a transgender rights group.” The claim is based on Bob Hamilton Plumbing’s past membership in the Mid-America LGBT Chamber of Commerce, a group that represents LGBT-friendly businesses in the Kansas City region.

Hamilton countered with his own ad calling Marshall’s claim false. “I’m a plumber. Public bathrooms stay separate,” Hamilton says in the ad as a graphic appears on the screen saying, “NO TRANSGENDER BATHROOMS.”

In a statement to The Star, Hamilton did not address a question about his company’s membership in the chamber and whether he stands by the decision to join. Hamilton sold the plumbing company in 2017, though it still carries his name and his name appears in ads.

The attacks against transgender rights are part of a pattern by Kansas Republicans, said Tom Witt, the executive director of Equality Kansas, the state’s leading LGBT organization.

“In the past four years we have had five bills introduced in the Kansas Legislature that single out transgender and gender non-conforming children… and now Kobach is taking this attack on little kids national,” Witt said.

 Barbara Bollier, a former Republican, is running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat.  photo by Jim McLean Kansas News Service
Barbara Bollier, a former Republican, is running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat.  photo by Jim McLean Kansas News Service

State Sen. Barbara Bollier, the likely Democratic nominee in the Senate race, has praised the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling this week in favor of employment protections for LGBT workers. “Kobach and the Republican candidates want to divide people — even in the middle of a pandemic that has killed over 100,000 Americans,” she said in a statement.

GOP candidates are using transgender rights as a wedge issue much like same-sex marriage was used in past elections, said Stephanie Byers, a trans woman running for the Kansas House as a Democrat.

“There’s nobody else for them to pick on to unite their base together, so now they’re looking at trans people,” Byers said.

Kobach also likened the the fight over transgender rights to the previous battle over same-sex marriage and said Republicans need to take action to prevent a similar societal shift.

“Progressives ‘progress.’ Like the sharks of our imagination, they have to swim forward or they die,” he said.