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UPDATE: Kentucky House Republicans quickly pass new version of anti-transgender legislation

This shows the outside of the Kentucky Capitol building, with trees shown off in the distance.
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Frankfort, Kentucky - State Capitol Building

This move comes at a time when GOP legislators and anti-LGBTQ groups in the U.S. are pursuing policies that restrict trans people’s ability to participate in public life.

This story mentions suicide and mental health issues. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by phone at 988, or online at https://988lifeline.org/.

If you’re looking for transgender peer support, you can reach Trans Kentucky at 859-448-5428 or online at transkentucky.com. You can also contact the Trevor Project, which provides free, confidential counselors who specialize in helping LGBTQ youth.

The Republican-led Kentucky House of Representatives moved swiftly Thursday to pass a new version of a ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, despite consensus from major national and state medical associations that these services should not be prohibited.

The House Education Committee added the language, and several other anti-trans provisions, to Republican Sen. Max Wise’s Senate Bill 150, which initially focused on letting public school teachers misgender trans students.

The update includes a ban on treatments that delay puberty, as well as hormone therapy and surgery, for trans people under 18 years old. Doctors could lose their medical licenses if they provide those services. Those who receive gender-affirming medical care as minors would be allowed to sue providers until age 30, under the new version of the proposal.

For much of this year’s legislative session, conservative lawmakers have been divided over how far such a ban should go. An omnibus anti-trans measure stumbled in the Senate Thursday night as Republicans split over whether to adopt a scaled-back version of the proposal.

If GOP lawmakers want to be able to override a veto from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, the legislature must pass any such legislation by midnight.

Accessing gender-affirming care already is difficult for trans minors and adults, and it’s extremely rare for a minor to receive any form of gender-affirming surgery. Experts say the decision for a trans person under 18 years old to receive puberty blockers or hormone therapy is reached through careful consultations between the child, their parents and their health care providers.

The new bill also adds a requirement that would make public school districts adopt policies that prevent trans students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

And it generally would prevent public schools from allowing educational presentations that study gender identity or sexual orientation. That’s similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

With time running out before Beshear’s 10-day veto period, the House Education Committee unexpectedly met Thursday afternoon, giving mere minutes of advance notice to the public that it would do so.

Republicans on that committee quickly greenlit the new SB 150 after two trans Kentuckians testified before them and urged them to reconsider because it will harm trans kids.

“Please, please, I can’t hear from another parent that they think their kids is going to die. I can’t do it anymore,” Mason Chernosky, a trans man, told lawmakers. “Please, please don’t pass this!”

Surveys indicate young trans and nonbinary people experience suicidal thoughts at especially high rates. And research shows trans youth who've received gender-affirming care – including treatments SB 150 would prohibit – have seen reductions in such thoughts and in depression.

Soon after the House Education Committee met, the House voted 75-22 Thursday afternoon to pass the new version of SB 150. Almost every Republican voted for the bill, and all but one Democrat voted against it.

It’s unclear if the Senate will approve the updated bill, too.

House Republicans approved essentially the same ban on gender-affirming care when they passed House Bill 470 earlier this month. But that bill got tied up in the Kentucky Senate, where GOP senators made major adjustments to HB 470 this week but hadn’t passed it as of 3:00 p.m. Thursday.

First, a Senate committee approved adding provisions from other bills, including the original version of SB 150. Then, they scaled back the ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

The updated Senate version of HB 470 would still ban hormone therapy and surgery but would allow puberty blockers, which delay puberty and are reversible. It also wouldn’t revoke doctors’ medical licenses for providing such services.

Republican lawmakers’ actions Thursday come at a time when some conservative politicians and anti-LGBTQ groups are pushing to restrict the ability of LGBTQ people – especially those who are transgender or nonbinary – to participate in public life.

GOP Rep. David Meade of Stanford publicly said they modeled the section of the new SB 150 that bans gender-affirming medical care on legislation from South Dakota.

Meade also said Thursday that he wouldn’t be promoting this bill if “I didn’t believe in my heart” it was the right thing to do.

This story has been updated.

Support for this story was provided in part by theJewish Heritage Fund.

Morgan is LPM's health reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.
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