Kentucky Lawmakers Override Veto to Pass Sweeping Transgender Bill

Kentucky lawmakers overrode the veto of the Democratic governor on Wednesday on a sweeping bill banning transgender surgery on minors and restricting their access to bathrooms of the opposite sex.

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On the penultimate day of this year’s legislative session, GOP lawmakers, who hold supermajorities in both chambers, overwhelmingly voted to override the veto of Governor Andy Beshear. The Senate voted 29-8 in favor of overriding the veto, followed by the House with a 76-23 vote shortly after.

The vote led to a protest within the state Capitol as emotions ran high among trans activists. According to Kentucky State Police spokesperson Capt. Paul Blanton, 19 individuals were charged with third-degree criminal trespassing after the sergeant of arms sought assistance restoring order. Officers provided each individual the option to leave without enforcement or face arrest.

“I think it’s unfortunate that it reached that level and certainly they were given, as I’ve been told since then, multiple opportunities to either quiet their chants or to leave voluntarily,” Republican House Speaker David Osborne said later.

The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Max Wise, described the legislation as part of an effort “to strengthen parental engagement and communication in children’s education while protecting the safety of our children.”

However, the bill’s Democratic opponents framed it as a civil rights issue, with Democratic Rep. Pamela Stevenson calling it the creation of an “environment of hate.”

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“First, you hated Black people. Then, you hated Jews. Now, you’re hating everybody,” she screamed at Republican lawmakers. “So the question is when the only people left are you, will you hate yourself?”

Dr. Karen Berg, another Democratic state senator, lost her transgender son to suicide last December and also spoke out against it. “To say this is a bill protecting children is completely disingenuous,” she said on the Senate floor. “And to call this a parents’ rights bill is an absolutely despicable affront to me personally.”

Initially a narrow bill, the law expanded to include a broader range of limitations. The law’s provisions specifically prohibit surgeries, puberty blockers, and hormone therapy for individuals younger than 18. School districts are no longer allowed to require students to be referred to by pronouns that do not align with the biological sex, while restrictions have also been placed on schools providing access to transgender bathrooms.

Under the law, doctors are required to discontinue treatment for patients who are receiving gender-transition care. However, if doctors believe that discontinuing treatment may cause harm to the patient, they may create a systematic plan to phase out treatment within a certain timeframe.

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Apart from the regulations imposed on transgender youth, the law also imposes restrictions on school discussions concerning sexuality. Schools must now provide parental notification of any programs that address sexuality, with no instruction on sexuality permitted below sixth grade. Moreover, the law prohibits the teaching of gender identity or sexual orientation at any grade level.

The bill was inevitably slammed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who have aggressively taken up the transgender issue as one of their main points of advocacy:

In another shameful attack on LGBTQ youth in Kentucky, the General Assembly has overridden Governor Beshear’s veto of Senate Bill 150.

SB 150 was rushed through the legislature in a deliberately secretive process at the 11th hour. Trans Kentuckians, medical and mental health professionals, and accredited professional associations pleaded with lawmakers to listen to the experts, not harmful rhetoric based in fear and hate. Their pleas fell on deaf ears as the general assembly passed the bill in a matter of hours.

The statement ends with a promise to launch lawsuits aimed at blocking the legislation.

“While an “emergency” clause was applied to some sections of the bill, the health care ban provisions will not go into effect until late June — 90 days after the legislature adjourns. Trans youth can still receive care until that portion of the bill takes effect. And we intend to take this fight to the courts to make sure Kentuckians’ right to that care will continue.

To all the trans youth who may be affected by this legislation: we stand by you, and we will not stop fighting. You are cherished. You are loved. You belong.

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Similar bills were passed in Arkansas, Iowa, Idaho, Georgia, and West Virginia over the past few weeks, as Republican-controlled states seek to stem the explosion in transgender identification and activism. Other states to have already done so include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

 

Editor’s Note: The headline of this article has been updated for clarity. 

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