Kentucky lawmakers override veto of transgender bill targeting youth

·3 min read

The Kentucky legislature voted Wednesday to override Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of sweeping legislation banning gender-affirming health care for youth and preventing transgender women and girls from competing on female sports teams.

The new law, which also bars transgender public school students from using facilities like restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, is effective immediately.

Beshear’s veto was overridden in the state House and Senate, both of which controlled by Republicans, in votes largely along party lines.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the state capitol on Wednesday to protest the measure, the Louisville Courier Journal reported. Inside the building, a smaller group held signs saying “Gender-Affirming Healthcare Saves Lives” and “You Messed With The Wrong Generation.”

Chants of “shame” were heard outside the Senate chamber as lawmakers voted to override Beshear’s veto and enact the measure, making Kentucky the 11th state in the country to ban gender-affirming health care for minors, and the eighth to do so this year.

Kentucky is now the 19th state since 2021 to pass a law barring transgender athletes from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity and joins six other states in adopting legislation that prohibits transgender students from using multi-person facilities at schools that align with their gender identity.

Republicans in the state legislature argued the measure’s intent has always been to protect children and the rights of their parents. Democrats disagreed.

“To say this is a bill protecting children is completely disingenuous,” Kentucky state Sen. Karen Berg, one of the chamber’s seven Democrats, said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “To call this a parent’s rights bill is a despicable affront to me, personally.”

Berg’s son Henry, a transgender man and human rights activist, died by suicide in December. He was 24.

Berg in a passionate speech on Wednesday accused Republican lawmakers of ignoring mainstream science in voting to ban gender-affirming health care for transgender youths — health care that is considered medically necessary by most major medical organizations.

“This is absolute willful, intentional hate for a small group of people who are the weakest and the most vulnerable among us,” Berg said.

The new Kentucky law also bars public school educators through the fifth grade from engaging in classroom instruction on “human sexuality” and prohibits students at all grade levels from learning about gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

Kentucky’s Education Department under the new measure is discouraged from recommending policies that require a transgender student to be correctly gendered at school. Local school districts are now unable to require staff to use a transgender student or teacher’s preferred pronouns.

Beshear, who is facing reelection this year, in a veto message last week wrote that the legislation “allows too much government interference in personal healthcare issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children.”

The measure is also likely to have a negative impact on the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ young people in Kentucky, Beshear wrote, citing reports from The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization, and the American Medical Association that linked access to gender-affirming health care to lower rates of anxiety, depression and suicidality among transgender young people.

“Improving access to gender-affirming care is an important means of improving health outcomes for the transgender population,” Beshear wrote in the veto message. “Senate Bill 150 will cause an increase in suicide among Kentucky’s youth.”

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