Republican lawmakers in Kentucky have passed a bill that prohibits transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming care, allows educators to refuse to refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns and would not allow schools to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity with students of any age.
The bill, if enforced, would prohibit gender-affirming care for minors, such as surgical procedures or the use of certain hormones, and calls for healthcare providers to terminate or set a timeline to end treatment for patients already undergoing such care.
The emotional debate over gender-affirming care for transgender students has become a political flashpoint -- especially among conservatives -- at a time legislators across the country are advancing measures to restrict LGBTQ rights.
Senate Bill 150 has been delivered to the office of Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat who has expressed his opposition to the measure. Republican lawmakers, however, hold a majority and could override a veto from the governor.
Beshear, in a press conference earlier this month, chided the state legislature for focusing on the culture wars issue and challenged them to work on increasing teacher pay and expanding healthcare to residents.
Beshear cited polls showing that a majority of Kentuckians believe medical decisions about their children should be left to parents and their families.
"What some legislation is doing here in Frankfort is tearing that away and saying, 'No, big government is going to tell you what is medically best for your children.' As a parent, I think that's wrong," Beshear said on March 2.
"When it comes to this issue polling doesn't matter to me because I believe it's the right thing to do," said Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. David Meade (R). "If we're going to protect children, we need to ensure that surgery or drugs that completely alter their life and alter their body is not something we should be allowing until they are adults who could choose that for themselves. This is the right thing to do for these children."
The Kentucky branch of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement saying the legislation was "rushed to the House floor after a hasty committee hearing where trans Kentuckians begged and pleaded for their lives, and access to critical care for trans youth."
"SB150 encompasses a host of new laws that are among the most extreme anti-trans attacks in the United States," the ACLU statement said. The Kentucky ACLU said it "stands ready" to fight the ban in court should it become law.
The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, noted the prevalence of deaths by suicide among LGBTQ youth.
"It is appalling to see Kentucky lawmakers work so hastily on dangerous legislation that will only put young LGBTQ Kentuckians in harm's way," said Troy Stevenson, director of state advocacy campaigns for the Trevor Project. "In the last year, nearly half of LGBTQ youth in Kentucky seriously considered suicide -- alarmingly, nearly 1 in 4 transgender and nonbinary youth in the state made a suicide attempt. Our leaders are pushing political wedge issues and sidestepping the real challenges like addressing the youth mental health crisis."
This story has been updated with additional details.