‘Tears away the freedom of parents’: No action yet, but Beshear slams anti-trans bill

Gov. Andy Beshear has not yet acted on a controversial bill that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, but reiterated his disdain for the bill at a Thursday news conference.

“I believe Senate Bill 150 tears away the freedom of parents to make important and difficult medical decisions for their kids,” Beshear said. “It tears away the freedom of parents to do what those parents believe is best for their kids and instead has big government making those decisions for everyone — even if the parents disagree.”

Sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, a Campbellsville Republican and running mate of gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft, Senate Bill 150 was sent to the governor last Thursday, the final day of the legislative session before the 10-day veto recess.

In addition to banning puberty-blockers, hormones and surgeries, SB 150 would also ban lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation, prevents trans students from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity and stops school districts from requiring teachers use a student’s pronouns if they don’t align with their sex assigned at birth.

During this recess, Beshear can sign bills into law, veto them or let them become law without his signature. But with a Republican supermajority in the Senate and House of Representatives, any of Beshear’s vetoes could be overturned when lawmakers return to Frankfort next Wednesday.

Given the GOP’s focus on “woke” issues this General Assembly and the bill’s near-unanimous support among Republican lawmakers, it’s likely a veto of SB 150 would be overridden.

Wise has previously defended his bill against criticism that it would harm trans kids.

“This bill is doing nothing towards targeting or condemning any type of lifestyle,” he said in February when SB 150 was first announced. “You know, this bill is about empowering parents. It’s about empowering educators and empowering students, and improving upon communication lines, with schools and with parents.”

Speaking Thursday, Beshear, who is seeking a second term, said he believed the provisions in SB 150 would cause an increase in suicide among Kentucky kids, citing information from the American Medical Association and the Trevor Project.

A 2022 survey on LGBTQ youth mental health from the Trevor Project found that more than half of trans and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the previous year, and almost 20 percent had attempted suicide. Medical providers in Kentucky have repeatedly warned lawmakers of the harm such a ban will cause to an already marginalized population.

Beshear said short sessions — the General Assembly meets for 30 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years — are supposed to be about cleanup bills, fixing drafting errors or tackling unforeseen consequences of previous legislation.

“That’s not what this one was about,” he said.

Beshear denounced the use of “shell bills” — bills that are filed, given the necessary readings and replaced with something new at the last minute — and the lack of transparency that surrounds them.

SB 150, for example, was originally filed and passed by the Senate as a bill primarily relating to student pronouns and parental rights in schools. But last Thursday, it was replaced with a substitute at the House Education Committee that included other provisions, like the gender-affirming care ban and bathroom regulations.

“I hope all Kentuckians believe that they should have the time to read something and to show up and and to be heard on it,” he said. “Certainly the way that 150 was passed at the end excluded the public. You know, an unannounced committee hearing, announced right at the end, a big substitute that people didn’t have time to read and then immediately to the floor right after that. Put any bill in that place and that process is a lot more like the sewer bill from years ago than it should be.”

The “sewer bill” situation referenced by Beshear unfolded in 2018 when Republican lawmakers replaced a bill relating to sewer system regulations with a 291-page substitute to overhaul Kentucky’s public pension system. It was unveiled and given final passage within hours.

“This session,” Beshear said, “could have been about lifting people up.”

The governor also responded to recent safety and security concerns surrounding a drag show in Prestonsburg and a Drag Queen Story Time in Louisville.

“The use of violence to try to push your views on to others is wrong, and it’s wrong in any and every circumstance,” he said. “Calling people or writing to them, saying that you’re going to cause them harm because they’re different than you? Listen, my faith tells me that that’s absolutely wrong. I believe in a loving God.”