Anti-Trans Bills in Kentuckiana

Transgender rights are being threatened across the US, with 33 states proposing anti-trans legislation. Lawmakers in at least eight states used the last two months of 2022 to pre-file anti-trans bills ahead of state legislative sessions convening at the beginning of 2023, in an effort by the statehouses to continue their battle over trans rights and health care in new ways. Most states focused early on anti-trans bills centering on gender confirming care for youth but are shifting their attention banning care for adults, according to data from the Equality Federation, a coalition of state LGTBQ+ organizations, and a review of state bills by The 19th.

So far most efforts to restrict health care for transgender adults, either directly or through insurance exclusions are the method that lawmakers are using to break ground for future legislative sessions. And education bills such as “don’t say gay” impacting LGBTQ+ students paved the way to target adults. Regardless if bills fail in one state states, legislators use those as exploratory examples to introduce stricter polices in their states.

Kentucky, which already began its legislative session had two bills filed the first day of the Kentucky General Assembly. Republican Bill Wesley from Ravenna pre-filled the bills ahead of 2023 legislative session, one of which includes an anti-trans “Bathroom Bill” that previously failed in the Kentucky Legislature. One seeks to ban transgender people from bathrooms of their gender identity, and another bill would prevent doctors from identifying the sex identity marker male and female in any government document in Kentucky.

This isn’t the first time the “bathroom bill” bill has made it to the state legislature. The first bill came in 2015 after North Carolina enacted a law that included restrictions for transgender people. The bill won Kentucky Senate’s approval but died in the Democrat controlled House. Wesley’s draft is similar to the 2015 bill. According to the draft a student would need written permission from their parents to use different facilities, but if the student were to “run into another student of the opposite biological sex” in the bathroom, parents could sue the school.

The second bill could prevent doctors from using “X” as a marker of sex on birth certificates, which would identify the child as nonbinary. Currently, no such document exists on official state documents. State law requires proof of gender affirming surgery for someone to change their sex on their birth certificate. Oklahoma passed a similar measure this year.

Democratic Rep. Keturah Herron, from Louisville said legislation like this could open the door for “further attacks on human rights as a whole.” “We need our allies to understand that if anyone group of people are being discriminated against and it’s allowed, then it leaves room for other people to be discriminated against.” she said.

In Kentucky’s sister state Indiana the nationwide assault on transgender children continues. Indiana lawmakers have introduced a few bills that would impact the lives of LGTBQ+ students’ rights to privacy. Similarly introduced in Florida the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” House Bill 1608 would ban discussions of “gender fluid, gender roles, gender stereotypes, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation” at the kindergarten to 12th grade levels. Senate Bill 413, introduced the same day, would go as far to ban mentions of LGBTQ+ people up to the 12th grade. The policy would also bar schools from establishing polices that prevent parents from accessing their students’ records and policies that would ban teachers from informing parents about their students’ social emotional, behavioral, mental, physical health. Although the language in these bills sounds vague, these policies would force their schools/teachers to out students to their parents. This bill would also force teachers to notify parents if their child used a bathroom that was not their “biological gender.” Even if a student was questioning their identity the teachers would be mandated to notify their parents within 10 days. Kate Blair, the director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the ACLU of Indiana, told the education publication Chalkbeat that HB and SB 354 “represent a coordinated hate driven campaign to push trans people out of public life.” The ACLU of Indiana has also referred to these bills of hate.” she said.

However, not all bills introduced by Indiana’s lawmakers are an attack on trans kids. State Bill 39 introduced earlier would extend the state’s anti-discrimination education statutes to protect students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Fairness Campaign’s executive officer Chris Hartman said while the “bathroom bill” failed in Kentucky in 2015, it’s a lightning rod moment for anti-trans legislation further sparked by the Supreme Courts decision on equal marriage. “National conservative think tanks needed to find a different LGTBQ+ issue which they could divide people, and they seized upon transgender rights. All of this is for political points and political posturing, none of this is a real priority in our state.” he said. Hartman said while Wesley’s proposed bill are working drafts, it’s probably one of the many bills the state legislature could consider that impact transgender rights in the state. “This is the tip of the iceberg. We’ll see many bills that either target LGTBQ+ community or specifically target trans kids this legislative session. This is all part of a marked increase across the nation for a problem that doesn’t exist.” he said.