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Kentucky lawmakers pass ban on youth gender-affirming care

The bill would also prohibit educators from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with students of any age.
/ Source: AP (Associated Press)

Republican lawmakers in Kentucky passed a measure Thursday to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors, completing whirlwind voting on a repackaged proposal that triggered outrage and tears among opponents unable to stop the sweeping policymaking on a culture wars issue.

Supporters of the proposal — which affects how gender is discussed in schools — beat a Thursday deadline to retain their power to override an expected gubernatorial veto.

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

The bill’s foes denounced the fast-track maneuvering and the expanded measure’s consequences for trans youths. Overcome with emotion, a sobbing Rep. Josie Raymond said children would be harmed. “I’m embarrassed and I’m appalled and I’m scared,” the Democrat said in opposing the bill in committee.

Republicans backing the far-reaching rendition cobbled together a separate bill that hastily cleared a committee and won House passage. It gained Senate passage a short time later, sending the bill to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who portrayed it as government intrusion in family health decisions.

Republican lawmakers in Kentucky struggled to wrap up a bill restricting gender-affirming care for minors, as internal differences complicated their push to beat a Thursday, March 16 deadline to complete the sweeping proposal denounced by some outside voices within their party.
Transgender-rights advocates gather near the Kentucky House chamber in Frankfort, Ky.Bruce Schreiner / AP

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

“Surgery or drugs that completely alter their life, and alter their body, is not something we should be allowing until they are adults,” Meade said later during the House debate.

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

“Legislators cannot erase transgender people from existence, 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 designated to carry the sweeping trans-related provisions retained its original language — allowing teachers to refuse to refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns and requiring schools to notify parents when lessons related to human sexuality are going to be taught.

Multiple layers were added to it — including the proposed ban on gender-affirming medical care for trans youths. It would outlaw gender reassignment surgery for anyone under 18, as well as the use of puberty blockers and hormones, and inpatient and outpatient gender-affirming hospital services. It would not allow schools to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity with students of any age.

The House passed the bill on a 75-22 vote. One after another, opponents stood to denounce the bill while supporters were mostly silent. Democratic Rep. Keturah Herron called the bill “an attack on a very, very, very small population of people.”