Kentucky legislatures ban gender-affirming grooming for teens

Kentucky legislatures ban gender-affirming grooming for teens

  • US News
  • March 17, 2023
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FRANKFORT, Kentucky (AP) — The Republican legislature in Kentucky passed a measure Thursday to ban gender-affirming childcare for transgender minors, completing a whirlwind vote on a repackaged proposal that sparked outrage and tears from opponents, who failed to stop wide-ranging policymaking in a culture war issue.

Supporters of the proposal – which will affect the discussion of gender in schools – are hitting a Thursday deadline to retain their power to override an expected governor’s veto.

GOP supermajorities in the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill a day after a stripped-down version stalled in the Senate, seemingly leaving the issue in limbo. A cascade of shouts erupted from some law opponents in the Senate gallery after the measure won the final passage.

Opponents of the bill denounced the overtake and the consequences of the expanded measure for trans youth. Overcome with emotion, a sobbing representative, Josie Raymond, said children were being harmed. “I’m embarrassed and I’m appalled and I’m scared,” the Democrat said while speaking out against the bill in committee.

Republicans, who supported the sweeping rendition, cobbled together a separate bill that got hastily approved by a committee and won passage through the House. It passed the Senate shortly thereafter, sending the law to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who portrayed it as government interference in family health decisions.

Presenting the revived bill to committee, Speaker of the Republican House of Representatives Pro Tempore David Meade said, “Our job is to protect children, and that’s what we’re doing here.”

“We shouldn’t allow surgeries or drugs that completely change their lives and their bodies until they’re adults,” Meade later said during the House debate.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky was quick to warn that it “stands ready” to challenge the measure in court if it becomes law.

“Legislation cannot eliminate transgender people, and we will continue to fight for equal rights and equal protection under the law,” said Amber Duke, the organization’s interim executive director.

The new bill, which is set to include the sweeping transgender provisions, retained its original language — it allowed teachers to refuse to refer to transgender students with their preferred pronouns and asked schools to notify parents when classes are over is granted in connection with human sexuality.

Several layers have been added – including the proposed ban on gender-affirming medical care for trans youth. It would ban sex reassignment surgery for those under 18, as well as the use of puberty blockers and hormones, and inpatient and outpatient gender reassignment hospital services. It would not allow schools to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity with students of any age.

The House of Representatives passed the law by a vote of 75 to 22. One by one they stood up to denounce the bill while supporters remained largely silent. Democratic MP Keturah Herron called the law “an attack on a very, very, very small segment of the population.”

The debate was shorter but no less fiery in the Senate, which passed the bill 30-7.

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

Proponents of the bill say they are trying to protect children from gender-affirming treatments that they may later regret as adults.

“We’re talking about removing healthy parts of the body that you can’t put back on,” Republican Senator Lindsey Tichenor said in support of the bill. “I’ve seen the pictures. It’s scary.”

Thursday was the last day Kentucky lawmakers met until the end of March, when they reconvened for the final two days of this year’s session. By exceeding Thursday’s deadline to send the bill to the governor, GOP supermajorities retained their ability to override a veto.

Beshear, who is seeking re-election this year, said such bills would amount to “a big government stepping in and imposing its will” on health care decisions that should be left to families.

“I also believe that every child is a child of God – every single one,” the governor said Thursday at his weekly press conference.

The expanded version was in stark contrast to the more restricted version, which stalled in the Senate on Wednesday. This version reduced restrictions on transgender youth, their families, and healthcare providers.

The issue has sparked an emotional debate from law opponents, who have labeled it discriminatory and harm transgender youth. On Tuesday, a former Kentucky lawmaker said his young grandchild would be among those affected if lawmakers banned under-18s from accessing gender-affirming medical care.

“This bill condemns vulnerable children to an even harder life than they were born,” Jerry Miller, a Republican who formerly served in the House of Representatives, told lawmakers. “Please don’t let parents’ right to protect their children become collateral damage in the culture wars.”

At the national level, state lawmakers this year are approving sweeping measures restricting the rights of LGBTQ people, from bills targeting trans athletes and drag performers to laws restricting gender-affirming care. In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves recently signed a bill into law banning sex-affirming hormones or surgery in the state for anyone under the age of 18. The Republican governors of South Dakota and Utah signed bans on gender-affirming grooming this year.

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