GOP-led legislatures deliver cache of victories for conservatives on key social issues

GOP-led legislatures deliver cache of victories for conservatives on key social issues

GOP-led legislatures deliver cache of victories for conservatives on key social issues

Important laws were passed in conservative-leaning states Idaho, Indiana and Kansas this week, and in North Carolina a key player changed teams.

In Idaho and Indiana, Republicans control the offices of governor, secretary of state and attorney general as well as both houses of the legislatures. The same is true in Kansas, save for the top spot held by Democratic Governor Laura Kelly.

However, Republican control of both Kansas houses provided the necessary votes on Tuesday to override Kelly's veto and helped protect the integrity of girls' athletics in The Jayhawk State. Boys identifying as girls will not be allowed on state-school sponsored sports teams from kindergarten through college. Kelly had vetoed the bill three times previously.

With the push for transgender lifestyle acceptance becoming emboldened – not to mention, abortion law being returned to the states – lining up votes in legislatures and assemblies has perhaps become more important than ever for opposing sides of explosive social issues. That was clearly apparent this week in North Carolina when Democratic House member Tricia Cotham changed jerseys, giving the GOP veto-proof control of both chambers – which makes the last two years more challenging for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cotham, 44 (right), has deep roots with North Carolina Democrats, her mother having served the party at the national level, her ex-husband at the state level. She said it was the party, not her, who changed.

The "modern-day Democratic Party has become unrecognizable to me," Cotham said. "If you don't do exactly what the Democrats want you to do, they will try to bully you. They will try to cast you aside."

Cotham said the turning point for her to consider a switch came when people started criticizing her for using the American flag and praying-hands emojis on social media and on her vehicles.

"It's been very clear to me this was about control on Day One at the legislature," she said. "They picked the wrong chick for that."

Key bills in Idaho, Indiana

In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday signed the nation's first state bill aimed at a new category of crime called "abortion trafficking."

It's now illegal for adults to assist young people seeking an abortion by "recruiting, harboring or transporting the pregnant minor" without consent from the parent or guardian.

Violators could face up to five years in prison and still be sued by the minor's parent or guardian.

Idaho abortion advocates pushed back. The Idaho State Director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates-West calls the law "despicable" and has vowed to do "everything in our power to stop it."

Idaho borders Washington and Oregon which, along with California, have promoted the West Coast as an abortion destination, a refuge from states where the practice is heavily restricted or banned unless extreme conditions exist.

It was a busy week for Little who signed the abortion trafficking bill just one day after he signed a bill making it a felony for Idaho physicians to provide gender-affirming care for minors. Ignoring the new law could result in a 10-year prison sentence.

Dr. Rodney Story, of Moscow, Idaho, told the Idaho Statesman that the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians, an 800-member nonprofit group, opposed the bill, and that stance created division among the group's members.

Also Wednesday, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill banning all gender-affirming surgery for minors.

At least 11 other states have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-manipulation procedures for minors: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah, South Dakota and West Virginia. Federal judges have blocked enforcement of laws in Alabama and Arkansas, and nearly two dozen states are considering bills this year to restrict or ban such procedures.

"Permanent gender-changing surgeries with lifelong impacts and medically prescribed preparation for such a transition should occur as an adult, not as a minor," Holcomb said in a statement.

While the bill was under debate, an Indiana couple with a transgender son told lawmakers the bill was "cruel and arrogant."

Restricting gender-affirming care has been a priority for Republican legislators in many states.

Girls and women's athletics has come into focus as well.

In Vermont, a Christian private school that competes with public schools was told by the state's governing body for athletics that its girls team forfeiting one basketball tournament game against an opponent with a transitioning male was not enough. The Vermont Principals' Association took the additional step of banning Mid Vermont Christian School from further competition in any sport period.

White, Becca (VT state senator) White

The VPA's ban was applauded by Vermont State Senator Becca White (D) in whose district Mid Vermont resides.

In an interview with CNN, White said she was "disappointed in the adults" who made the decision for the MVCS team. The decision by the VPA, she said, was not "a bridge too far" to ban MVCS teams in all sports.

That's the kind of situation conservative Kansas lawmakers – who were abused verbally by two LGBTQ+ House members – hope their state will now avoid.

What happened to Title IX?

A year ago America celebrated 50 years of Title IX, federal legislation credited with balancing the scales between the benefits awarded to male and female sports teams. For women's teams that meant equality with things like equipment and supplies, scheduling of games and practice times, money for travel, access to tutoring, locker rooms, medical facilities and much more.

Now female athletes in some states where transgender males are on their teams face inequality in something as basic as the spirit of competition.

"Over the past 50 years, females have finally been able to celebrate our differences and create a division that enabled us to achieve athletic endeavors similar to our male counterparts," Caroline Bruce McAndrew, a former Olympic swimmer and member from the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame from Wichita, testified to lawmakers.

In 2022 Kansas Republicans adopted a party platform that states the "INSTITUTION OF TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE is the foundation of society."

"We proudly stand with the female athletes across Kansas," House Speaker Dan Hawkins and other leaders said in a news release, "in their pursuit of athletic awards, opportunities, and scholarships and believe they deserve every chance at success afforded to their male counterparts."

Title IX may have taken a hit today, however. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday allowed a West Virginia 12-year-old male who claims to be female to continue competing on his middle school's girls sports team while a lawsuit over a state ban continues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.