On Wednesday, Kentucky state GOP lawmakers overturned Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto on a transgender bill banning gender-affirming care for minors that has now become law. LGBTQ+ activists and organizations have vowed to continue the fight, however.
“The moment the law takes effect, our partners at the ACLU-KY will sue on behalf of families harmed by this discriminatory and deadly law,” said Chris Hartman, Executive Director of the Fairness Campaign, a Louisville-based LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.
Hartman added that the organization and ACLU-KY have been working together since the beginning of the legislative session to identify potential plaintiffs in anticipation of its passage.
“In the coming months, we will be working with organizations all across Kentucky and the region to identify places where Kentucky families can continue accessing the medical care they need and deserve,” he said. “Parents won’t stop at Kentucky borders to protect their children, and neither will we.”
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The law restricts bathrooms children can use, bans schools from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity, and allows teachers to opt out of using preferred gender pronouns. Portions of it will go into effect immediately and the entire law is expected to take effect by this summer, barring legal challenges.
State Democrats said this move “[denies] families, their physicians and their therapists the right to make medically informed decisions for their families.
Republicans, who hold a super majority in Kentucky, claim that using “puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, when administered to youth under 18 for the purpose of altering their appearance” is dangerous for kids.
But studies have shown that gender-affirming care is actually beneficial for adolescents. Research from the University College London and NHS Gender Identity Development Service on trans youth between the ages of 12 to 15 determined that patients reported mostly positive life changes while on puberty blockers for gender dysphoria.
Bill supporters also stated that the measure shields trans youth from undergoing gender-affirming treatments they might regret as adults.
Further research shows that such regret is rare.
The harm from anti-trans legislation and transphobia in general can be devastating, notes Angela Cooper, Communications Director for American Civil Liberties Union-Kentucky (ACLU-KY).
“Even just being called by preferred pronouns can be the difference between a trans teen committing suicide or not,” said Cooper.
Cooper added, that while it’s not the organization’s place to make suggestions about where people should get their health care, they do connect people with resources all the time.
“The only thing we are able to do right now, and something that we’ve been doing this entire [legislative] session is connecting families with trans kids with as many resources as possible,” said Cooper. “Whether those are in Kentucky or out of state.”
The main focus is ensuring the LGBTQ+ community that there’s 100% support behind them, Cooper noted. “We are going to fight this. This is not over.”
Groups like the Fairness Campaign are also looking toward other ways to further support the trans community in Kentucky, namely through elections. Hartman said the nonprofit will be working “like never before” by working to re-elect Andy Beshear, owing to the unprecedented support of new LGBTQ+ and allied advocates who have become engaged in the legislative process.
“Then, we’ll mobilize our growing base of supporters to elect Kentucky legislators who actually reflect our commonwealth’s values of diversity and inclusion,” said Hartman.
This isn’t the first time a veto by Gov. Beshear on anti-trans legislation was overridden, either. In April 2022, he vetoed Senate Bill 83, which bans transgender girls and women from participating in sports from middle school through college. But the legislature voted to override it shortly after.
Also on Wednesday, West Virginia became the latest state to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth after Republican governor Jim Justice signed the legislation into law.
The law, which is expected to go into effect in January 2024, bans health care providers from prescribing hormone therapy and puberty blockers to those under 18. Minors will also be banned from receiving gender affirming surgeries, according to AP News.
The passage of Kentucky’s and West Virginia’s latest anti-trans bills into law comes as at least 11 states have enacted similar measures. It also comes ahead of International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st.