Anti-trans bill paused in Senate as Republicans split

By Sarah Ladd, Kentucky Lantern

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Senate narrowly voted to postpone consideration of House Bill 470 — after  adopting a floor amendment that loosened the controversial bill’s health-care restrictions on trans youth.

The 19-17 vote came at 9:34 p.m. Wednesday after two breaks for closed-door Republican caucuses.  

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, proposed cutting about 30 pages of the original bill, including harsh penalties against medical professionals, and replacing that language with: 

  • No person shall provide surgical medical treatment to a child or nonsurgical medical treatment to a child with “gender dysphoria without the written, notarized consent of the child’s parent or legal guardian.” 
  • Only children who have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria can receive nonsurgical medical treatment and it must be from a “licensed physician who is appropriately trained and experienced in providing nonsurgical medical treatments for children with gender dysphoria in collaboration with a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.” 

His amendment passed 19-17, while others were not successful. 

Several floor amendments were withdrawn, including ones that would have defined “health facility” and let parents or guardians sue health care providers within 30 years after the minor in question turns 18. 

 Sen. Reggie Thomas calls House Bill 470 a “bad bill.” (Photo for the Kentucky Lantern by Sarah Ladd)

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, voted for Carroll’s amendment but said in explaining his vote that it merely made “a bad bill better.” 

Senate President Robert Stivers said that the Senate could vote Thursday to take up House Bill 470 again.

Asked about the bill’s future, Stivers said he didn’t know.

“There was a lot of questions and discussions, multiple caucuses about what various amendments meant and impact to the bill,” he said. “I think there was a lack of knowledge as to what all the amendments of the subject matter meant. This is not the easiest of subject matter topics.” 

Rebecca Blankenship, who runs Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, told the Kentucky Lantern that Carroll’s adjustments to the bill were a “small mercy” but that the bill is “still heinous” for Kentucky’s trans youth. 

But “The fact that (Carroll) stepped up for us,” Blankenship added, “means more than he could ever know.” 

The bill also includes provisions restricting what public schools could teach about sexuality. It also says schools may, after public comment, adopt policies related to who can use what bathrooms at school.

Besides Stivers, others voting against the amendment were Republican Sens. Gary Boswell of Owensboro, Donald Douglas of Nicholasville; Shelley Funke Frommeyer of Alexandria; Rick Girdler of Somerset; Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon, Robby Mills of Henderson, John Schickel of Union, Adrienne Southworth of Lawrenceburg, Damon Thayer of Georgetown; Lindsey Tichenor of Smithfield; Johnnie Turner of Harlan; Stephen West of Paris; Phillip Wheeler of Pikeville; Gex Williams of Verona; Mike Wilson of Bowling Green, and Max Wise of Campbellsville.

The evolution of 470 

In its first iteration, House Bill 470, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, was considered one of the worst bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community in the nation.

 Senate majority leaders and staff have a sidebar as the Senate considers House Bill 470. (Photo for the Kentucky Lantern by McKenna Horsley)

In addition to proposing a ban on gender affirming care for minors, it included penalties for mental health professionals as well as physicians who provided care to trans minors. 

A committee changed the bill, exempting mental health professionals from the penalties. That version still banned gender affirming care for all minors and allowed lawsuits against medical providers for a 30-year window, though. 

That version passed the House

McKenna Horsley contributed.

Top Photo:  Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, presents a floor amendment to House Bill 470, which senators approved in a narrow vote. (Photo for the Kentucky Lantern by McKenna Horsley)