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Republican lawmakers in Kentucky have overridden the governor’s veto on a bill targeting transgender youth

On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers in Kentucky ignored the Democratic governor’s veto of a bill regulating some of the more intimate aspects of transgender youth’s personal lives — from banning access to gender-affirming health care to restricting the bathrooms they can use.

votes to be bypassed Governor Andy Beshear’s veto She was lopsided in both houses of the legislature – where the Republican Party holds an overwhelming majority – and came on the next-to-last day of this year’s legislative session.

The controversy is likely to spill over into this year’s Kentucky governor’s campaign and could reach the courts if opponents follow through on a threat to file a legal challenge against the bill.

Activists from both sides of the spirited debate converged on the statehouse to file competing appeals shortly before lawmakers adopted the transgender bill.

Just hours before the vote, as transgender advocates rallied outside the Kentucky Capitol, trans teen Sun Paciga unfurled a banner outlining a grim review of Republican legislation intended to block access to gender-affirming health care. The banner read: “Our blood is on your hands.”

“If it gets passed, restricting access to gender-affirming health care, I think trans children will die because of that,” said the 17-year-old, expressing persistent concern among critics of the bill that the restrictions could lead to an increase in cases. Teenage suicide.

Senate Bill's transgender opponents and supporters gather at the Capitol
Demonstrators confront a speaker during a rally to protest the death of SB 150 on March 29, 2023 at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky.

John Cherry/Getty Images

The Senate voted 29-8 to override Bashir’s veto, as cheers from opponents of the bill echoed throughout the Capitol. A short time later, the House completed the overrun in a vote of 76-23 but not before opponents of the bill were cheered on and removed from the chamber.

Supporters of the bill have rallied to defend the measure, saying it protects trans children from undergoing gender-affirming treatments they might regret as adults. Research shows that such regret is rare.

“We can’t allow people to continue on the path of fantasy, to where they’ll end up 10, 20, 30 years down the road and find themselves miserable from the decisions they made when they were young,” the Republican said. Shane Baker at a rally Wednesday.

Once the rally in support of the bill in the Capitol Rotunda ended, opponents watching from balconies chanted, “Shame, shame.”

Senate Bill's transgender opponents and supporters gather at the Capitol
SB 150 supporters applaud during a press conference in support of SB 150 while opponents of the bill show signs above on March 29, 2023 at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky.

John Cherry/Getty Images

The legislation in Kentucky is part of a national movement, with state lawmakers approving sweeping measures that restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ people this year — from bills targeting transgender athletes and performers to measures limiting gender affirming sponsorship.

At least 10 states have passed laws restricting or Prohibition of gender confirmation sponsorship for minors: Alabama, ArkansasArizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, TennesseeUtah and South Dakota. The proposed ban is pending before the Republican governor in West Virginia. Federal judges have blocked enforcement in Alabama and Arkansas, and nearly two dozen states are considering bills this year to restrict or ban care.

The debate in the Kentucky Senate reflected the impassioned arguments put forward in the rival rallies.

“We’re denying families and their doctors and therapists the right to make medically informed decisions for their family,” said Democratic Senator Karen Berg, opposing the bill.

Berge read what her son, Henri Berg Brosseau, had written in defense of transgender rights shortly before he died late last year at the age of 24. His mother said it was a suicide.

Republican Senator Robby Mills said he supports the bill because he believes that “puberty blockers and sex hormones, when given to young people under the age of 18 for the purpose of altering their appearance, are dangerous to that child’s health.”

Medical treatments for transgender people have long been available in the United States and are endorsed by major medical societies.

Another reason to support it, Mills said, is that “parents and students should be confident that the bathrooms at their school will only be used by the same biological sex.”

Senate Bill's transgender opponents and supporters gather at the Capitol
SB 150 supporters hold signs on March 29, 2023 at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky.

John Cherry/Getty Images

Kentucky’s blanket measure would ban gender confirmation sponsorship for minors. It would ban sex reassignment surgery for anyone under the age of 18, as well as the use of puberty and hormone blockers, and inpatient and outpatient gender confirmation hospital services.

Doctors will have to set a schedule to “take off transition” children who are already taking puberty blockers or undergoing hormone therapy. They can continue to provide care as they gradually reduce the treats of the little ones, if removing them from treatment immediately could harm the child.

The bill would not allow schools to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity with students of any age. It would also require school districts to put in place bathroom policies that, “at a minimum,” do not allow transgender children to use the bathroom compatible with their gender identities.

It would also allow teachers to refuse to refer to transgender students with the pronouns they use.

The potential cessation of gender-affirming health care would mean “male puberty,” Hazel Hardesty, another transgender teen, said, “causing a lot of mental distress.”

“People don’t even understand how you feel,” the 16-year-old said during the rally. “You go through the wrong puberty, every day your body is a little further away than you feel. And eventually you don’t even recognize yourself in the mirror.”

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