By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed a far-reaching bill that would ban transgender minors’ access to gender-affirming care and sets strict rules for teaching in Kentucky’s schools about sexuality.
Senate Bill 150 would ban gender-affirming treatment for Kentuckians under 18, including surgeries and puberty-blocking hormones, even if parents want the treatment for their children.
It would bar schools from requiring teachers to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns, keep trans students from using bathrooms that fit their gender identity, and bans instruction that explores “gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation,” among other sex-education requirements.
|State Sen. Max Wise|
The veto came as no surprise. Beshear, a Democrat running for re-election, has been consistent in his disapproval of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who is running for lieutenant governor on a slate headed by Kelly Craft of Lexington.
“I think I’ve been clear on how I feel about it,” Beshear said the day before he vetoed the bill. “I believe Senate Bill 150 tears away the freedom of parents to make important and difficult medical decisions for their kids. It tears away the freedom of parents to do what those parents believe is best for their kids, and instead has big government making those decisions for everyone — even if the parents disagree.”
Beshear’s veto message says SB 150 “allows too much government interference in personal healthcare issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make personal family decisions.” He wrote that it turns educators and administrators into investigators who must report to parents about how students behave and/or refer to themselves or others.
He also wrote, “My faith teaches me that all children are children of God and Senate Bill 150 will endanger the children of Kentucky,” citing data to support his concerns.
“In a 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ youth mental health, 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year and nearly one in five transgender youth attempted suicide,” he wrote. “The American Medical Association reports that receipt of care dramatically reduces the rates of suicide attempts, decreases feelings of depression and anxiety, and reduces substance abuse. Improving access to gender-affirming care is an important means of improving health outcomes for the transgender population. Senate Bill 150 will cause an increase in suicide among Kentucky’s youth.”
Lawmakers will reconvene March 29 and 30, when the majorities of Republicans in the House and Senate are expected to easily override the veto. Republicans were quick to criticize it.
Wise’s statement said Beshear “puts party over Kentuckians’ wish to eliminate woke ideologies in our children’s schools.” He said the goal of the bill “is to strengthen parental engagement and communication in their children’s education.”
He added, “Parents should look at this veto as a slap in the face. . . . I look forward to the legislature overriding this veto, and protecting children from the irreparable harm of gender-transition surgeries by making SB 150 law.”
Wise also issued a joint statement with Craft, saying “Time and time again, Gov. Beshear has proven he is out of step with what Kentuckians are talking about at their kitchen tables: communication and engagement with their children’s schools. A Craft-Wise administration will ensure our children are protected, make sure parents are heard, and empower teachers to focus on providing a world-class education that teaches our children how to think, not what to think.”
Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Sean Southard also criticized the veto and looked ahead to the election.
“Is Andy Beshear the governor of Kentucky or California?” Southard asked. “Kentucky voters will have an opportunity this fall to rid our state of this far-left governor and replace him with a Republican who will work to protect children. Once this campaign is over, today may very well be remembered as the day Andy Beshear lost his bid for re-election.”
Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the apparent front-runner in the May 16 Republican primary, criticized news-media coverage of the bill and said “chemical castration and genital mutilation . . . is the exact opposite of how we should support children experiencing gender dysphoria or mental-health struggles. My administration will protect our youth from dangerous ideologies and defend Kentucky’s values.”
Others issued statements praising the veto.
“By vetoing this hateful legislation, Gov. Beshear has demonstrated his commitments to protect Kentucky parents’ rights to raise their children as they see fit, and to keep medical decisions where they belong: between providers and patients,” said Angela Cooper, communications director for American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.
Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, said “SB 150 will only lead to disaster and despair for transgender Kentucky kids and their families. . . . We urge state lawmakers to read the governor’s veto message, listen to medical professionals and sustain Gov. Beshear’s veto.”
Kentucky Voices For Health said in its newsletter that it joined more than 500 organizations, providers and individuals in signing a letter of opposition to SB 150, and urged citizens to call their legislators’ offices at 502-564-8100.