Kentucky students ask legislators to let anti-trans veto stand. Senate votes to override.
by Sarah Ladd, Kentucky Lantern
This story discusses suicide and anti-LGBTQ attacks in Kentucky. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
The Trevor Project, which aims to end suicide among LGBTQ+ youth, also has trained counselors available around the clock. Reach them at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help/, or by texting START to 678678.
FRANKFORT – Noah Healander’s mental health improved once he was able to live “authentically” as a transgender boy, he told a cheering crowd outside the Kentucky State Capitol Wednesday.
But when anti-trans legislation popped up in the legislature this session, “I started to fall back into a mental health spiral,” he said. “That does not mean I will give up.”
He was one of hundreds of Kentucky students gathered between the Capitol and Annex. Anticipating a vote to overturn Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of controversial anti-trans Senate Bill 150, they pleaded with lawmakers to oppose the legislation.
Hours later, the Senate voted 29-8 to overturn the veto. The legislation can now go to the House.
“In their so-called attempt to protect children, this legislature has sentenced many to death,” Rebecca Blankenship, Kentucky’s first openly trans elected official and the executive director of Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, said in a statement. “The LGBT community will work hard to care for one another through this crisis as we have through many before. In the end, we will survive, and we will prevail.”
SB150 bans gender affirming care for minors and directs local school boards to make policies keeping people from using bathrooms, locker rooms or showers that “are reserved for students of a different biological sex.” The bill also places new restrictions on sex education in public schools.
Sponsor Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, has said the measure protects the rights of parents.
“The goal is to strengthen parental engagement and communication in children’s education on protecting the safety of our children,” he said on the Senate floor. He added that it “reinforces a positive atmosphere in the classroom and removes unnecessary distractions.”
Trans kids may have use of single-stall bathrooms or “controlled use” of staff facilities, the bill says. They won’t have access to bathrooms that don’t conform to their birth sex when other students are using those facilities.
Advocates have said they worry SB150, as a law, could result in youth suicides.
Outside, between speeches, songs and poems, protesters also did a “die in” on the grass. In waves people sat and lied on the grass to demonstrate potential fallout from SB150.
The Trevor Project, which aims to end suicide among LGBTQ+ youth, reported in 2022 that 59% of Kentucky’s transgender and nonbinary kids considered suicide, and 24% tried to take their own lives.
Healander testified before the crowd that he was one of those who tried to take his life.
“Trans people existing are not a threat to anyone,” he said. “We’re merely fighting to maintain the most basic human rights. All of you are loved and valued. We must keep fighting until everyone has the ability to live safely and authentically.”
Protesters holding signs that said “Love all kids,” “Stop hate” and “SB150=State Violence” cheered and clapped for him.
Family Foundation also rallies
Inside the Capitol Rotunda, proponents of the legislation asserted they are also motivated by love.
Family Foundation executive director David Walls said the organization loves “each and every person created in the image of God.”
“SB 150 will protect the lives of Kentucky’s children by setting our public policy in alignment with the truth that each and every child is created as a biological male or female, deserves to be loved, treated with dignity and accepted for who they really are,” he told that crowd.
Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, denounced Beshear’s veto to the crowd at the Family Foundation rally. She was the primary sponsor of House Bill 470, which was narrowly tabled in the Senate. Language from that bill was added to SB 150 in the House.
“He took the radical position of protecting and promoting the multi-billion dollar business of subjecting the healthy bodies of children with gender dysphoria to chemicals and life altering surgeries that before they have the cognitive ability to give informed consent,” she said.
“My identity should not be put on hold”
Outside, nonbinary student June Wagner testified that their life has, recently, revolved around protesting anti-LGBTQ legislation.
This session, Kentucky legislators introduced 11 anti-LGBTQ bills, according to an American Civil Liberties Union tracking site. The more than 400 bills nationwide threaten the freedoms of speech and expression, health care and civil rights, the ACLU says.
“My life is not something to be swept under a rug,” said Wagner, 17. “My identity should not be put on hold until I turn 18.”
In the crowd, someone blew large bubbles that wafted up the Annex steps, past the large transgender pride flag and into the sky.
McKenna Horsley contributed to this report. This story will be updated.
Top photo: A crowd protesting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation staged a “die in” on the Capitol grounds to demonstrate what they said could be the fallout of SB 150, students dying. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Sarah Ladd)
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