By Bruce Schreiner | Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Republican lawmakers in Kentucky passed a measure on Thursday to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors, completing a stormy vote on a recast proposal that sparked outrage and tears among opponents unable to stop broad policymaking in a issue of culture wars.
Supporters of the proposal – which affects the way gender is discussed in schools – have beaten a Thursday deadline to retain their power to override an expected government veto.
The GOP supermajority in the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the bill, a day after a stripped-down version stalled in the Senate and seemingly left the issue in limbo. A cascade of screams erupted from some of the bill’s opponents in the gallery after the Senate vote.
Opponents of the bill denounced the accelerated maneuvers and the implications of the expanded measure for trans youth. Overcome with emotion, MP Josie Raymond, in tears, said that children would be harmed. “I am ashamed, shocked and afraid,” said the Democrat as he opposed the bill in committee.
Republicans backing a far-reaching surrender crafted a separate bill that quickly cleared a committee and won House approval. It passed the Senate a short time later, sending the bill to Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, who portrayed it as government intrusion into family health decisions.
Pro Tempore Republican House Speaker David Meade, introducing the revived bill to committee, said, “Our job is to protect children, and that’s what we’re doing here.”
“Surgery or drugs that completely alter their lives and alter their bodies is not something we should allow until they’re adults,” Meade later said during the House debate.
The new bill designed to carry out the broad trans-related provisions has 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 relating to human sexuality are ministered.
Multiple layers have been added to it — including the proposed ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender 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-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 by 75 votes to 22 after an emotional debate. One after another, opponents rose to denounce the bill, while supporters remained silent. Democratic Representative Keturah Herron called the bill “an attack on a very, very, very small population of people”.
The debate was shorter but no less intense in the Senate, which approved the bill by 30 votes to 7.
“This is absolute, intentional, intentional hate. Hate 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 they may regret as adults.
“We’re talking about removing healthy body parts that you can’t put back,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Tichenor in support of the bill. “I saw the pictures. It’s horrible.”
Thursday was the last day that Kentucky legislators were in session until the end of March, when they will meet again for the final two days of this year’s session. By passing the Thursday deadline to send the bill to the governor, the GOP’s supermajority retained its ability to override a veto.
Beshear, who is seeking re-election this year, said such bills amounted to “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 one,” the governor said Thursday at his weekly news conference.
The expanded version was in stark contrast to the more limited version that stalled in the Senate on Wednesday. This version eased restrictions on transgender youth, their families, and healthcare professionals.
The issue has spurred an emotional debate among opponents of the bill, who consider it discriminatory and say it would harm transgender youth. On Tuesday, a former Kentucky lawmaker said his grandson would be among those affected if lawmakers banned access to gender-affirming medical care for those under 18.
“This bill dooms vulnerable children to a life even harder than the one they were born into,” Jerry Miller, a former House Republican, told lawmakers. “Please don’t let a parent’s right to protect their child be collateral damage in the culture wars.”
Nationally, state legislators are passing sweeping measures that restrict the rights of LGBTQ people this year, from bills targeting trans athletes and drag performers to ones that limit gender-affirming care. In Mississippi, Republican Governor Tate Reeves recently signed a bill to ban gender-affirming hormones or surgery in the state for anyone under 18. The Republican governors of South Dakota and Utah signed gender-affirming care bans this year.
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