By Wednesday night, a sweeping anti-trans bill appeared dead in Kentucky as lawmakers debated whether it went too far. So it surprised Democrats, transgender activists, and their allies when Republicans managed to hold a committee vote, then rush the bill through approvals in both the state House and Senate the following day.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear isn’t expected to sign the bill, which passed mostly along party lines, into law, but the GOP has enough of a majority to override his veto.
People in the gallery were furious when the measure passed and yelled, “You’re all fucking pieces of shit!” at lawmakers on the floor, according to Courier Journal reporter Joe Sonka.
Democratic state Sen. Karen Berg, whose transgender son died by suicide in December, cried after the vote, Sonka reported. Berg had delivered powerful testimony as the bill was being debated.
“[This bill] is viewed as the single worst anti-LGBTQ legislation that has come out of a statehouse in this country,” she said during a floor debate.
“This is absolutely willful hate for a small group of people that are the weakest and most vulnerable,” she added.
The bill that passed this week expanded upon one that Republicans in Kentucky first introduced in February, which would have allowed students to misgender transgender students despite the detrimental impact it would have on trans youth.
The new version of the bill still allows trans students to be misgendered. But it goes much further: It also bans gender-affirming care, like puberty blockers or hormone therapy, for trans kids and requires doctors to begin detransitioning any of their trans patients who are children. It mandates that schools create policies that will not allow trans students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. It does not allow educators to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity in any grade and forbids discussion of human sexuality until sixth grade. After that, parental consent is required.
The Kentucky GOP’s last-minute push to advance the bill is following a disturbing nationwide trend. Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced just this year in states dominated by Republicans as part of the broader culture war on trans Americans and the push for “parental rights” — a catchall term that centers the wishes of conservative white parents when shaping policies in public schools.
Gender-affirming care for minors is appropriate and not dangerous, according to the American Medical Association. And genuine mental health risks come with widespread discrimination and health care bans: Transgender youth are at higher risk for depression and suicide.
Instead of serving the most vulnerable among us, Berg said her fellow lawmakers ignored the science behind gender-affirming care for trans children and only rushed this bill for one reason.
“My child came up here 10 years ago,” she said on Thursday, referring to her son’s 2015 testimony against a bathroom bill in the Kentucky statehouse. “You had time to understand the science… this is absolute, willful, intentional hate.”