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A bill that bans gender-affirming care for children passed the Senate Families and Children committee Tuesday, but not before lawmakers added a committee substitute that adds additional language seeking to place other restrictions on transgender children.
The additional restrictions include adding language that prevents transgender children from using the bathroom that aligns with the gender with which they identify.
The new bill further adds the language of Senate Bill 150 that children must get parental permission for any health treatment — something already in the law.
Additionally, there is added language that prevents teaching human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases to grade-school students below fifth grade and prevents any student, regardless of grade level, from studying or exploring gender identity.
The added language from Senate Bill 150 also requires parents’ written consent for teaching human sexuality to grades six and above.
“We live in a time right now where parents have the expectation, and the students have an expectation, of a right to privacy of undressing in front of members of the opposite biological sex,” said Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), the primary sponsor of SB150.
The move to pass this type of legislation comes as other Republican-dominated states have also passed similar measures. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill into law in January that bans hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. Arkansas and Tennessee passed similar legislation in 2021.
Former state house Rep. Jerry Miller, a Republican from Louisville, was once one of 75 Republican representatives in the Kentucky legislature last year. He retired, but the House gained five additional seats to achieve an even more substantial supermajority of 80 Republicans to 20 Democrats.
In the Senate, where the bill moved through Tuesday, Republicans also hold a supermajority of 30 to 7.
Miller spoke out on behalf of his own family and said he has a grandchild that is transgender.
“This bill condemns vulnerable children to an even more difficult life than they’ve already been born in,” Miller said.
Miller also said the bill violates parental rights and is governmental overreach.
“The government has no compelling interest here in violating parents’ rights,” said former state House Rep. Jerry Miller (R-Louisville).
Christopher Bolling, a retired Northern Kentucky pediatrician, testified that the committee shouldn’t pass the bill and lawmakers should instead listen to families and doctors from Kentucky.
“If you choose to make House Bill 470 the law in Kentucky, you’re putting providers like us in an impossible situation,” Bolling said.
He further said that he is still determining how he could provide care under this potential law — where he is practicing — and it will force current medical practitioners to change how they provide treatment.
Instead of putting medical care in the hands of doctors, it puts it in the hands of politicians, Bolling said, and it will further affect the shortage of medical practitioners throughout the Commonwealth.
“We do not need further impediments in attracting providers,” Bolling said.
Sen. Karen Berg (D-Louisville) testified to the committee about her transgender son, Henry, who died by suicide last year. She talked about the first time she learned Henry identified as a boy.
“As a physician, I did not know to recognize that my child was trans,” Berg said.
Berg has been an outspoken critic of the anti-LGBTQ legislation moving through the legislature this session.
Some testified in favor of the bill — though they were from out of state.
NKY physician Bolling said the committee would hear from those who received substandard care, and he pleaded with the committee to listen to physicians and families from Kentucky.
The committee heard from Dr. Christian Van Mol, who serves on the boards of Bethel Church of Redding and Moral Revolution — a California church that gained notoriety for something called “grave sucking,” where members would lie on the graves of dead revivalists and believed they would absorb the dead person anointing from God.
“Chemical sterilization and surgical mutilation of otherwise healthy bodies is not health care,” Van Mol said. “Scientific and legal evidence is driving an international pushback against interventions in favor of intensive psychological evaluation and support.”
Jeannette Cooper, executive director for Partners for Ethical Care — a Chicago-based organization — said doctors shouldn’t be removing healthy body parts.
“Gender dysphoria is a psychological problem that deserves ethical psychological care,” Cooper said.
Kelly Wagner — an Ohio resident — testified that she did not conform to gender norms and took to wearing men’s clothes in college, and believed she was born gay.
“I struggled with many things, including fear, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and sometimes I battled with suicidal thoughts,” Wagner said, adding that she often talked of getting a breast reduction.
Instead, she said she sought mental health care to address the root cause of the pain.
“I like to offer my body as a gift to my husband in our marriage,” Wagner said,
Luka Hein — from Wisconsin — who testified during the House committee in person, also testified to the Senate Family committee via video — she said she didn’t feel safe at the Kentucky Capitol after what happened during her last testimony, though she didn’t give details.
“I spiraled into a hatred of my body and myself, which ended in me truly believing that I was just a boy,” Hein said. “Professionals ignored my actual issues and instead affirmed me down a path of medicalization.
Two more testifiers — Helena Kerschner and Billy Burleigh — who detransitioned, spoke in favor of the bill, though neither was from Kentucky.
All those who spoke in favor of the bill have spoken in favor of other bills in other states.
When it came time to vote, Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Benton), the committee chair, didn’t allow questions but gave Senators a chance to explain their votes.
Sen. Denise Harper Angel (D-Louisville) voted no and said this was the “largest attempt at the government overriding the will of our people — our children, our parents, that I’ve seen in the last 20 years. It is going to have devastating results.”
While Harper Angel’s vote wasn’t surprising, Republican Sen. Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield) voted no because Meredith said the bill violates parental rights.
Sen. Robin Webb (D-Grayson) also voted no.
The bill passed 6-3, but not before three other Republicans expressed concerns about it before casting their yes vote on promises from Carroll that the legislation would change before making it to the floor.
Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Fruit Hill), Sen. Julia Raque Adams (R-Louisville), and Carroll expressed concern about the overreach and harsh language in the bill.
“I’m extremely uncomfortable putting myself in the place where a doctor should be,” Carroll said before voting yes. “I don’t have the training. I don’t have the knowledge to make decisions.”
The bill didn’t make it to a floor vote Tuesday. It has two readings and could get a vote during the last two days before the veto period. If the governor overrides the veto, the legislature will have two days after the veto break to override his veto.