Kentucky lawmakers voted on Wednesday to override Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a sweeping anti-LGBTQ bill aimed at restricting transgender students’ ability to have their gender identity recognized or validated.
The Republican-led House and Senate easily overrode Beshear’s veto of the bill on largely party-line votes, enacting the measure into law.
The override signals that Kentucky Republicans have embraced national messaging that asserts that restrictions on LGBTQ visibility are needed in order to preserve parents’ ability to decide what information their child will be exposed to, and to prevent trans-identifying children from transitioning before they are old enough to make an informed decision.
The bill, which was resurrected in a hastily-called committee meeting in order to placate supporters of the measure before being quickly approved by both chambers, imposes major restrictions on schools in the name of preserving parental rights, echoing several major elements of Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Under the newly enacted Kentucky law, school districts are banned from using pronouns that do not match a student’s assigned sex at birth, from teaching certain sex-related courses, and from allowing students to use facilities that match their gender identity, reports Louisville FOX affiliate KDRB.
Teachers would be forced to disclose information to parents about their children’s behavior, including whether they are using different names or pronouns that don’t match their sex at birth, or any information disclosed to them by their students about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The new law prohibits schools from teaching human sexuality or sexually-transmitted diseases until after 5th grade, and no student, of any grade level, can receive instruction with “a goal or purpose of students studying or exploring gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”
Schools will also be required to adopt policies informing parents before any class in 6th grade or higher studies sex-related topics, including STDs, and must obtain parental consent before proceeding with any lessons.
Schools must also provide alternatives for students whose parents wish to “opt out” of sex-related instruction, and must allow parents to review any materials used in the course of teaching.
The bill also prohibits doctors from prescribing puberty blockers or hormones to minors, or from performing surgical interventions to assist a minor in transitioning to a gender that is different from their assigned sex at birth. Doctors who violate the law can be penalized, potentially having their licenses to practice suspended or revoked.
Because the bill doesn’t just focus on one issue, but rather serves as an omnibus bill dealing with a multitude of LGBTQ issues, it drew opponents to the statehouse grounds to protest its provisions, especially those regarding transgender children, whose gender identities may not be affirmed either in school or in health care.
In vetoing the measure, Beshear said in a statement that it “allows too much government interference in personal health care issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children,” referring to the restrictions on accessing gender-affirming care, and “further strips freedom from parents to make personal family decisions on the names their children are called and how people shall refer to them.”
Beshear also expressed concerns that the bill would turn teachers and school administrators into “investigators” who will listen in on student conversations and may “out” LGBTQ-identifying, and especially transgender or nonbinary, students to their parents before they are ready — a move that, in some situations, could put some children at risk of being abused or kicked out of their homes.
He also said the bill would be detrimental to students, potentially pushing them to contemplate self-harm. He cited a 2022 national survey by The Trevor Project, the top suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, noting that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide over the past year, and 1 in 5 trans youth actually attempted suicide.
Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), the bill’s sponsor, argued that the measure is intended to “strengthen parental engagement and communication in children’s education on protecting the safety of our children.” He said the new law will reinforce a positive atmosphere in classrooms and remove “unnecessary distractions and mandating the use of specific pronouns in our schools.”
LGBTQ groups and advocates condemned the override of Beshear’s veto.
Chris Hartman, the executive director of the Fairness Campaign, Kentucky’s top LGBTQ advocacy group, promised to pursue legal action to block the law or challenge its constitutionality.
“While we lost the battle in the legislature, our defeat is temporary. We will not lose in court,” he said. “And we are winning in so many other ways. Thousands of Kentucky kids came to the Capitol today to make their voices heard against the worst anti-trans bill in the nation. They are our hope for a Kentucky future that is more fair, more just, and more beautifully diverse and accepting than ever before.”
“Kentucky’s legislators show no shame,” Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “These politicians have no place inserting themselves in conversations between doctors, parents, and transgender youth about gender-affirming care; they have no place inside a middle school bathroom stall either.
“This bill would terrorize transgender youth in schools, in doctor’s offices, and even could put them in danger at home.”
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