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The Courier Journal

Kentucky bill to end gender-affirming care for trans kids adds 'Don't Say Gay'

By Olivia Krauth, Louisville Courier Journal,

2023-03-14

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This story discusses suicide and mental health issues. If you're in crisis, help is available: Call the national 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or chat online at 988lifeline.org/chat .

If you or someone you know needs trans peer support, you can call Trans Kentucky at 859-448-5428 or visit transkentucky.com . Nationally, you can call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or visit translifeline.org . LGBTQ+ youth can get support from the Trevor Project by calling 866-488-7386 or visiting thetrevorproject.org .

FRANKFORT, Ky. - A Kentucky bill considered to be one of the most extreme anti-trans pieces of legislation in the country is expanding ahead of a likely Senate vote this week — and it is expected to change even more after serious concerns from some prominent Republicans.

An altered Kentucky House Bill 470 cleared a tense Senate Families and Children Committee meeting Tuesday morning on a 6-3 vote. Republican Sen. Stephen Meredith joined the two Democrats, Sens. Denise Harper Angel and Robin Webb, in voting against the bill.

HB 470 could pass out of the full Senate as early as Tuesday afternoon, but concerns from Republicans are likely to delay the Senate vote.

Sens. Julie Raque Adams and Whitney Westerfield, both Republicans, voted for the bill in committee Tuesday but stressed how much they dislike elements of the proposal. Adams, the Senate Majority caucus chair, said committee Chair Danny Carroll committed to changing the bill before a floor vote. Westerfield said he will vote against HB 470 on the Senate floor if it appears Tuesday afternoon.

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House Bill 470 , sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, would ban gender-affirming medical treatments including hormone therapy and puberty blockers for trans youths in Kentucky. It also blocks minors from legally changing their names or birth certificates if they're doing so as part of their gender transition.

Background: Kentucky's bill to ban gender-affirming care for trans kids passed the House. What happens now?

A committee substitute version of the bill that passed the Senate Families and Children Committee on Tuesday morning adds in pieces of "parents' rights" bills filed in Kentucky.

In one of the biggest shifts, HB 470 would forbid Kentucky schools from discussing sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression - a key component of "Don't Say Gay" bills popping up across the country.

Schools also would not be allowed to offer instruction on human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases before sixth grade. Starting in sixth grade, such lessons would require written consent from a parent.

Districts also would be required to craft bathroom policies after having a public comment period. While the bill doesn't dictate what those policies should be, it requires districts to consider a number of statements pushing a "bathroom ban" - keeping trans students out of the bathrooms tied to their gender identity.

Senate Bill 150, the sole "parents' rights"-style bill still alive in the waning days of the session, was added in its entirety to HB 470 rather than being considered on its own. Its biggest component allows teachers to misgender their students.

Background: Lawmakers advance student pronouns bill ... in front of peer who lost transgender son

HB 470 originally also blocked mental health services and opened health care providers to criminal charges for providing such treatments. Those elements were removed before HB 470 was heard in the House Judiciary Committee two weeks ago.

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Tuesday's committee meeting was the latest episode in a series of powerful testimonies from LGBTQ individuals and their allies as they challenge at least 10 bills in Kentucky aimed at restricting their rights.

Among the opponents Tuesday were former Rep. Jerry Miller, a Republican who retired from the legislature last year. He voted for a measure last year keeping trans girls off girls sports teams because he thought it was what was best for his granddaughter, he said.

But he spoke against HB 470, saying his 7-year-old grandchild is trans. He still struggles with getting the pronouns right, he told the committee, but he loves and will fight for his grandchild.

"This bill condemns vulnerable children to an even more difficult life than they've already been born into,” Miller said. “Please don't let a parent's right to protect their children become collateral damage in the culture wars."

LIST: Here are the key bills advancing - and dying - in the 2023 Kentucky legislature

Sen. Karen Berg, a Louisville Democrat who lost her trans son to suicide last year , was the last to speak against the bill.

Despite being a doctor, she wasn't trained to recognize the signals a child is trans. She recounted a time early in her son's childhood when he lined up with the boys at a school event and was gently redirected to the girls' line by a school official. She said she didn't realize what was happening.

Years later, when her son, Henry, came out as trans at 14, he told her she should have known. She tried to continue her anecdote, but Carroll said her two minutes were up and refused to let her finish her sentence.

The clock is ticking to get HB 470 and other controversial bills onto Gov. Andy Beshear's desk before lawmakers break for the veto period, which would allow them to override any vetoes during the final days of the session on March 29 and 30.

If HB 470 passes out of the Senate, it will return to the House for concurrence. It is possible the House may not agree with the Senate's changes, forcing the two chambers into a conference committee to compromise on the bill - potentially delaying its final passage.

The bill would head to Beshear if both chambers reach an agreement before the veto period starts Friday. Beshear, a Democrat running for reelection, is likely to veto HB 470 if it gets to his desk.

A January Mason-Dixon poll question from the Fairness Campaign, a pro-LGBTQ rights advocacy group, showed 71% of respondents oppose laws letting state leaders overrule parents' wishes for gender-affirming care for their child.

Reach Olivia Krauth at okrauth@courierjournal.com and on Twitter at @oliviakrauth .

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky bill to end gender-affirming care for trans kids adds 'Don't Say Gay'

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