Kentucky passes the ‘worst anti-trans bill’ in America

Kentucky Capitol building

Lawmakers in Kentucky have passed an expanded anti-trans bill which targets the rights of vulnerable young trans people in the state.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky denounced the legislation as the “the worst anti-trans bill in the nation”.

On Thursday night (16 March), the state’s legislature passed the bill in a matter of hours, with approval from a committee and both the state House and Senate.

Senate Bill 150 seeks to ban gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth, requires doctors to detransition young trans people and prevents schools from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation with students of any age. 

The bill’s original focus was on schools, with provisions to force teachers and students to misgender their own pupils and classmates, and allow parents to opt their children out of any lessons discussing sexuality.

New additions from another anti-trans bill, House Bill 470, were tacked onto SB 150, widening it to include a ban on gender-affirming healthcare for trans young people, and requiring school districts to form policies that “at a minimum” would prevent trans children from using bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. 

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SB 150 also specifies that doctors must create a timeline to taper off treatment for children currently receiving hormone therapy or puberty blockers – but only if immediately stopping the treatment could physically harm them – in service of the ultimate goal of detransitioning young people.

Additionally, districts and schools will not be permitted to adopt any policies that aim to keep information about students confidential from parents, a move that could put young people in danger at home if they haven’t disclosed their sexuality or gender identity to caregivers. 

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Kentucky state senator Dr Karen Berg, who lost her trans son to suicide in 2022, spoke out passionately against the bill, describing the vote on Twitter as one to “to remove basic rights from members of the trans community, their parents, and their doctors”.

She added: “Hate has no shame in this state.”

A ‘dangerous’ and ‘unconstitutional’ bill

The Trevor Project condemned the bill, describing it as “appalling” and “dangerous”.

Director of state advocacy campaigns Troy Stevenson said: “It is appalling to see Kentucky lawmakers work so hastily on dangerous legislation that will only put young LGBTQ+ Kentuckians in harm’s way.

“In the last year, nearly half of LGBTQ+ youth in Kentucky seriously considered suicide – alarmingly, nearly one in four transgender and non-binary youth in the state made a suicide attempt. 

“Our leaders are pushing political wedge issues and sidestepping the real challenges like addressing the youth mental health crisis,” he continued. “The Kentucky Legislature should not be inserting itself into critical decisions best left to parents and doctors by imposing a blanket ban on best-practice medical care. 

“We urge the governor to reject this harmful legislation and send a message to the young LGBTQ+ Kentuckians watching these debates that they belong in this state.”

In a statement, the ACLU of Kentucky dubbed the bill “unconstitutional” and vowed legal action if it becomes law, while blasting it as “the worst anti-trans bill in the nation” on Twitter.

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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) urged the Kentucky governor to veto and warned that SB 150 would “terrorise transgender youth in schools, in doctor’s offices” and could “put them in danger at home”.

The bill is now moving over to Governor Andy Beshear’s desk to be signed into law or vetoed within 10 days. 

It is expected that Beshear will veto the bill, but then the veto is likely to be overridden when the Republican-majority legislature returns for the final two days of the session (29 and 30 March). 

This comes as part of a wave of homophobic and transphobic legislation sweeping the US this year. According to the HRC, more than 410 anti-LGBTQ+ bills – around 180 of them specifically targeting the trans community – were introduced in statehouses across the country during the first few months of 2023.

Suicide is preventable. Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). ​Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.

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