The 2022 Kentucky General Assembly starts January 4 and a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ bills will create a challenging four months for the Fairness Campaign and other advocacy groups fighting racism, transphobia, and homophobia in the Bluegrass.
For 30 years and counting, Fairness continues fostering progress. These achievements include 23 communities adopting fairness ordinances (protecting nearly a third of the commonwealth from discrimination), three major cities banning the deadly practice of conversion therapy on Kentucky kids and all seven explicit anti-LGBTQ+ attacks on the community in the Kentucky General Assembly were defeated in 2021.
Despite decades of progress, some LGBTQ+ activists are worried.
“We are already facing pre-filed bills that threaten many of our most vulnerable Kentuckians,” Fairness Campaign Executive Director Chris Hartman, said.
One of the anti-LGBTQ+ items is another attempt to ban transgender students from fully participating in school life by barring their access to sports teams. Neighboring states West Virginia, Tennessee and several other states around the country have passed similar bills.
Regarding education in public schools, there are two bills that would ban Critical Race Theory and teaching about LGBTQ+ identities.
“We’re very nervous, perhaps more than in the last decade plus,” Hartman said. “There is already an anti-trans student sports bill pre-filed in the legislature and opponents have announced their intent to put an anti-LGBTQ law inside an abortion bill.”
The “Omnibus Abortion Bill” that includes language from 2021’s failed “Healthcare Discrimination Law,” if passed, will allow any worker in a healthcare setting to deny service to anyone for any reason.
For two years, Senator Stephen Meredith (R) couldn’t pass the original healthcare discrimination bill, so he slid it into the new abortion bill.
Lawmakers can put any language they want into bills. Bills don’t have to be specifically about any one thing, though they are often categorized as something related to one thing—education, health and welfare, etc. In Ohio, lawmakers slipped the similar anti-LGBTQ+ language into their budget bill and passed it in 2021.
“Needless to say, we are going to need every LGBTQ-supportive Kentuckian at the Statewide Fairness Rally and Lobby Day on Wednesday, February 16,” Hartman said. “People are now able to register for the rally at fairness.org/rally.”
Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky will also appear during the 2022 session. Despite attempts in 2020 and 2021, conversion therapy is still legal in the Bluegrass.
The Youth Mental Health Protection Act is bi-partisan legislation that would protect vulnerable kids from ineffective and fraudulent practices claimed to “change” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bills primary sponsor, Representative Lisa Willner (D) said this is her fourth year working to pass this bill along with Representative Kim Banta (R) and Senator Alice Forgy Kerr (R). Kerr originally filed and sponsored this bill in 2019.
Willner kicked off pride month in 2021 by filing The Youth Mental Health protection act along with two other bills including the state-wide Fairness bill and comprehensive inclusive sex education in public schools.
“We continue to pick up more and more cosponsors and I am told that this particular bill has more bi-partisan support than any other LGBTQ+ bill in the country,” Willner said. “There are people in the legislature that are basically anti-LGBTQ+, but I think when we start talking about the issue of suicide, self-harm and really dangerous risks associated with conversion therapy, it seems like even people that are not friendly to the cause say, ‘this goes too far.'”
The truth is that conversion therapy has no scientific basis whatsoever. Instead, it is often based on outdated and false theories such as the flawed notion that being gay is caused by bad parenting. Most conversion therapists falsely blame parents for their child being gay or transgender, even though there is zero evidence for such claims.
The Trevor Project survey of 34,000 LGBTQ youth found that of the 5% of LGBTQ youth who reported undergoing conversion therapy, 42% reported a suicide attempt in the past year. LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide in the past 12 months compared to their LGBTQ peers who did not report undergoing conversion therapy.