Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation pushed through Kentucky legislature, teens fight back

Belle Townsend

With at least 11 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in Kentucky’s 2023 legislative session, many folks are wondering where and how those bills ended up.

This slate of hate contained similar language to bathroom bills, “don’t say gay/trans” bills, and anti-trans healthcare bills that have been pushed across the United States. The ACLU has been keeping an easy-to-follow map of the 428 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the United States, with categories like “healthcare, public accommodations, schools/education, civil rights, and free speech/expression.” 

HB 173 was the only definitively defeated bill. However, SB 150 was the only bill out of the ACLU-named slate to pass the House and Senate, ultimately landing it on Governor Andy Beshear’s desk. Beshear has vetoed the bill as of March 24, but the General Assembly will reconvene March 29 and 30 to possibly override the veto. 

SB 150 was pushed as a Frankenstein version of itself, with expansions from multiple other anti-LGBTQ+ bills. It originally fell under the umbrella of targeting freedom of speech/expression, allowing teachers to misgender their students. As highlighted by Olivia Krauth in this Courier Journal article highlighting just how SB 150 got passed,

“A new section added a ban on gender-affirming medical care for trans youths, despite medical experts and their professional associations saying such care is safe and effective treatment for children with gender dysphoria… Doctors would be required to set a timeline to detransition children already taking puberty blockers or undergoing hormone therapy. They would be allowed to continue offering care as they taper a child’s treatments, if immediately taking them off the treatment could harm the child…

Further highlighted by Courier Journal’s article, “Schools would not be allowed to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity with students of any age…” As well, a provision of the bill would require school districts to at least craft bathroom policies that keep trans kids out of bathrooms tied to their gender identity.

As Kentucky’s legislature pushed and heard these bills, people across the state showed up to fight the bills. Namely, young people showed up. 

The legislature returns March 29 and 30. It is already being circulated that on March 29, teens have organized a protest rally to oppose SB 150 and HB 470. It will take place at 9:30-11:30 in front of the Annex Steps of the Capitol, with students and legislators advocating for the General Assembly to not overturn Andy Beshear’s veto.

In addition to SB 150, SB 5 is a bill that also should be of concern to those who champion LGBTQ+ history and perspectives. This bill would create a complaint resolution policy, wherein parents can complain to local boards of education about material that they deem “harmful to minors.” This would require the school to make sure that students with a parent who complained about material “harmful to minors” do not have access to the complained-about material. Further, the Kentucky Department of Education would be required to model the complaint resolution policy. 

The creation of such a system is a part of the conservative movement to oppose Critical Race Theory, a term co-opted by the movement to fearmonger namely white parents into thinking their children are being indoctrinated into the liberal agenda. Such a system creates a greater burden for teachers, detracts from creating systems that are proven to improve ALL student outcomes, and allows for parents to limit their children’s worldview: both in the home and in the classroom.

With SB 150 and SB 5 both passing the General Assembly, let it not be forgotten how hard we have fought to get here. These legislative bills are real, dangerous, and tangible threats to many Kentuckians, but these bills are also a part of a curated culture. 

The legislature is trying to tell Kentuckians who we are by pushing these bills. However, there are Kentuckians from all walks of life showing up and standing up against these bills.

This legislative session has been long, and it has taken the life out of me. But, hearing these folks with rich, southern accents, from all corners of our state, fighting for our queer Kentuckians? Seeing young people, who are being targeted the hardest, fighting for our queer Kentuckians?

They remind me of why Kentucky is worth fighting for. They remind me that Kentucky is not strictly red or blue. It is a beautiful land of green hills, blue skies, calloused hands, and soft touches. This is a complicated state, but there is no denying that it is our state too.