Kentucky enacts one of the strictest anti-trans bills, despite governor’s veto 

Person holding a sign that says LGB With The T
Campaign for Southern Equality photo Unsplash by Karollyne Hubert

One of the nation’s strictest anti-trans bills is now a law in Kentucky after lawmakers voted to override the governor’s veto. Transgender youth in the state now face extreme changes in the classroom and medical challenges beyond.  

Wednesday, March 29 was a heavy day for trans youth and allies in Kentucky, as they witnessed Kentucky’s House pass Senate Bill 150 (SB150) into law, calling it an expression of the “will of the people”. 

Senate Bill 150, which was introduced in February by Republican State Sen. Max Wise, targets trans youth. It restricts access to medical care and limits gender expression in classroom settings. 

Medically, SB150 bans gender affirming care, including hormone therapy and surgery for those under the age of 18, and also promises to revoke the licenses of doctors who perform gender affirming care for minors. In school settings, SB150 prohibits discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity, prohibits the use of personal pronouns, allowing for educators and fellow students to use birth names and pronouns against student’s wishes. The bill restricts which bathrooms and lockers students can use and requires parents to be notified of any mental health requests made by students regarding sexuality. 

SB150 will turn educators “into investigators that must listen in on student conversations and then knock on doors to confront and question parents and families about how students behave and/or refer to themselves or others,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said in his veto statement of the bill on Friday, March 24. 

Despite the governor’s veto, and other objections from education officials, medical professionals and families of trans students, SB150 is officially a reality for Kentuckians. 

Protests against the bill began on the early morning of Wednesday, when hundreds of citizens gathered outside in the lawn of the Capitol in Frankfurt for a student-led protest. Passionate protesters of all ages, draped in Pride flags, held signs reading “Trans People Belong” and “Say No to SB150” as they chanted “protect trans rights”.

Local advocates and state officials, including Democratic Sen. Karen Berg, who has been on the frontlines opposing this bill since its creation, stood to speak to the masses. There, she expressed her disappointment. 

“You shouldn’t have to be here, fighting for yourself, for your neighbor, for your schoolmate, for your child, to have basic, basic human rights,” Sen. Berg said, addressing the crowd. “This should not be happening.” 

Sen. Berg is a mother to a transgender son named Henry. Just three months ago, 24 year old Henry, a speaker for an LGBTQ civil rights organization, took his own life. 

Students and other bill-opposers also stood to voice their disgust regarding SB150 that morning. Some read off different poems and personal stories to the crowd. Student organizers took time to also read statements from students uncomfortable with speaking publicly about their experiences. 

The morning protest bled over into the afternoon and the rest of the day, as the crowd made its way inside the Capitol for the House proceedings. As they entered, protestors hung Pride flags over that Capitol rotunda, where a counter-protest group in support of SB150 held its own protest, USA Today reported. 

The counter protest was led by a conservative organization called Family Foundation. According to their website, Family Foundation’s goal is to “help advance God-honoring policy in Kentucky.”  

“SB 150 will protect the lives of Kentucky children by setting policy in alignment with the truth that every child is created as a male or female and deserves to be loved, treated with dignity, and accepted for who they really are,” David Walls, leader of the Family Foundation said in a statement reported by USA Today, calling the override “a win for children and their parents in Kentucky.”

Like the SB150-opposer protest, the counter-protest in favor of SB150 had its own leaders and political figures speak about their desires to have the governor’s veto overruled and the bill passed in the state. Among them was Rep. Josh Calloway of Irvington, who stood firm on his beliefs in parents rights. 

“We should have the say at every part of their lives, and that’s what this legislation is about,” Rep. Calloway said. “My children don’t belong to the government, they don’t belong to the school, they don’t belong to some idea, God gave them to me. And they belong to me.” 

Both groups of protesters, for and against SB150, continued their chanting up in the gallery of Kentucky’s Capital as the House proceedings took place. However, the closer that lawmakers came to passing the bill, the more emotional and loud protesters became. Ultimately, protesters refusing to be silent were handcuffed and escorted outside. Nineteen people were arrested,  reported WHAS11

Although SB150 is now signed into Kentucky law, the fight against it still remains active. On an episode of Kentucky Tonight, Jackie McGranahan, of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Kentucky stated that there are several unconstitutional pieces to SB150, which may lead to an influx of lawsuits to come. 

“Transgender Kentuckians and transgender people have always been around. What’s different now is that transgender people are now more visible,” McGranahan said. “Of course, we at the ACLU of Kentucky completely oppose all of the legislation, especially Senate Bill SB150, and especially the health care ban in Senate Bill SB150.” 

She continued, “In our legal team, we are researching currently to see how this bill is going to affect trans children and their families, and they’re exploring what the best path forward is for litigation. And that could mean one lawsuit, or it could mean several.”