Newly re-elected Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear showed compassion for trans-identifying children while also reflecting on failed efforts to attack him for vetoing a sweeping bill restricting transgender rights and limiting transgender visibility.
Earlier this month, Beshear was re-elected over Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron by a five-point margin, defying his home state’s heavy Republican lean even as social conservatives viciously attacked him over his support for abortion rights and LGBTQ rights.
Speaking to MSNBC correspondent Jen Psaki last week about how he was able to carve a path to victory despite the odds against him, Beshear explained why he believes Republicans’ almost singular focus on social issues was a failed strategy.
Psaki shifted from abortion to transgender rights, mentioning Beshear’s veto and the numerous ads that were run against Beshear for having attempted to block the bill, which eventually became law — despite an ongoing legal challenge — when Republican lawmakers overrode his veto.
“All children are children of God. That’s what my faith teaches me,” Beshear said in a clip captured by the Midwestern news outlet Heartland Signal. “And I was going to stand up especially for the most marginalized children who didn’t deserve either a state legislature or an entire campaign and all these super PACS picking on them.”
Beshear said that transgender minors are more likely to suffer mental health issues and are more at risk of suicidal ideation.
“We ought to be in the suicide prevention business and not further harming kids who are going through too much,” he said, adding that he did “the right thing” by vetoing the anti-trans omnibus bill.
Throughout the campaign, conservatives frequently emphasized Beshear’s veto of the bill, which not only banned access to gender-affirming care for minors and penalized doctors, but imposed restrictions on pronoun usage and restroom access by transgender individuals, required teachers to “out” transgender students to their parents, and barred instruction on human sexuality — even in sex education classes — in schools.
Cameron’s campaign and Republican-aligned groups frequently pointed out that Beshear was largely supportive of transgender rights and sought to gin up opposition to his re-election bid based on those stances.
The right-wing American Principles Project PAC even aired an outrageous ad asserting that Democrats, including Beshear, would coerce the FBI into abducting transgender-identifying youth to remove them from their parents’ custody.
Another ad showed a drag queen reading a storybook to children and accused Beshear of supporting “child sex changes with permanent consequences.” That ad was removed from YouTube for violating the platform’s restrictions on “hate speech,” but was later restored after conservatives contested the removal.
Beshear insisted that the ad misrepresented his position on the issue, noting that he opposes surgical interventions on minors, but does not support an across-the-board all gender-affirming treatments that don’t take individuals’ needs into account.
Other ads featuring former University of Kentucky swimmer and anti-transgender activist Riley Gaines sought to elevate Cameron as a “real man” while attacking Beshear for vetoing a bill last year that sought to ban transgender athletes from competing in female-designated sports and athletic activities. Republicans also overrode that veto.
The ads appeared to be gaining traction in the months leading up to the election, helping Cameron close a once-double-digit polling advantage in Beshear’s favor.
The Democratic governor — who won by a much wider margin than his first election four years ago — deemed the ads part of a losing strategy that emphasized hot-button social issues to the exclusion of other, more pressing concerns.
Beshear also condemned the tone of the attack ads.
“The way these Super PACS and my opponent went about their campaign was just mean, and it was gross, and it was cruel,” he told Psaki. “And people don’t like that. That is not who we are, and this ought to be a message that you can’t scapegoat people just to get folks angry, and it’s wrong.”
He accused anti-trans super PACs of seeking to “dehumanize” fellow Kentuckians to exploit anger or fear over transgender youths’ existence to win elections.
“This can’t be right and left — some things have to be basic right and wrong,” Beshear said. “There’s gotta be limits. This can’t be a ruleless type of game because it’s so much more than a game — ask any of these kids.”
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