LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Republican state lawmakers voted Wednesday to override Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a sweeping GOP bill that curbs transgender medical procedures and limits teaching certain sex-related topics in Kentucky schools.

The House and Senate — both controlled by Republican supermajorities — easily set aside the governor’s March 24 veto. The Senate voted 29-8 in a mostly party line vote. The House followed with a vote of 76-23. 

The rebuke of the governor's veto by Republican supermajorities in both chambers came as rallies for and against the legislation occurred on the statehouse grounds. Protesters shouting chants that included "Trans rights are human rights" echoed as the House began debate on the veto Wednesday afternoon.

Senate Bill 150, which is now poised to become law, passed both chambers March 16 -- the last day for lawmakers to retain the ability to override a veto. It was resurrected and expanded in a hastily called committee meeting after a fierce lobbying effort by supporters, then advanced through both chambers.

"The goal is to strengthen parental engagement and communication in children’s education on protecting the safety of our children," Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), the bill’s sponsor, said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

Wise said SB 150 also "reinforces a positive atmosphere in the classroom and removes unnecessary distractions and mandating the use of specific pronouns in our schools."

But opponents like Sen. Karen Berg (D-Louisville), whose transgender son died of suicide in December, said the bill is "assuring that our young gay and trans students do not have a safe adult at school that they can reach out to.

"We are making sure that they cannot do that without fear of being outed. We are making sure that students cannot see themselves in our art or our literature. We are trying to erase them," Berg said. 

The measure would allow teachers to refuse to refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns, limits what sex-related courses can be taught and requires school policies ensuring students use restrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms for their biological sex.

It also prohibits medical surgeries for gender dysphoria for a child under 18; performing sterilizing surgeries; genitalia-modifying procedures; and it creates penalties for health care providers who perform such procedures.

And it bans physicians from prescribing medication to delay the onset of puberty, known as puberty blockers.  

The bill "allows too much government interference in personal health care issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children," Beshear wrote in his veto message. "Senate Bill 150 further strips freedom from parents to make personal family decisions on the names their children are called and how people shall refer to them should refer to them."

Beshear argued that SB 150 will turn teachers and school administrators into "investigators" who will listen in on student conversations and confront parents about how their children behave or refer to themselves. The bill will endanger children, he wrote, citing a 2022 national survey by The Trevor Project that found 45 percent of LGBTQ teens and young adults "seriously considered" attempting suicide in the past year.

What the legislation does

The bill combines sections of several pieces of legislation, addressing transgender medical procedures and sexual identity and related curricula in Kentucky public schools.

It requires schools to prohibit students below 5th grade from studying human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases. No student of any grade can receive instruction with "a goal or purpose of students studying or exploring gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation."

Schools also must adopt policies telling parents – and getting written parental consent -- before any students in 6th grade or higher studies sex-related topics, including STDs.

Schools also must provide alternatives for students whose parents object to their child getting sex-related instruction. Among other things, parents also would be able to review all materials created in courses on human sexuality.

The medical aspects were hotly debated in the General Assembly. Dr. Christopher Bowling, speaking earlier this month for the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told a committee that the generally accepted standard of care has "never included surgical procedures on Kentucky patients under age 18 or medical hormone therapy under 18 without full parental consent, thorough mental health evaluation and ongoing medical monitoring."

Supporters, such as the California-based Dr. Andre Van Mol of the American College of Pediatricians, took issue what he called "experimental and unproven hormonal and surgical procedures which medicalize prematurely and permanently."

Reaction to the veto override

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky pledged to take the state to court shortly after lawmakers set aside the veto.

Executive director Amber Duke called the veto override "another shameful attack on LGBTQ youth in Kentucky" and said in a statement that legislators rushed through the bill in a "deliberately secretive process at the 11th hour. Trans Kentuckians, medical and mental health professionals, and accredited professional associations pleaded with lawmakers to listen to the experts, not harmful rhetoric based in fear and hate."

Duke noted that the bill does include an emergency clause, making sections about schools, school courses and the bathroom provisions take effect immediately. But the bans on certain medical procedures are set to become law after 90 days.

"Trans youth can still receive care until that portion of the bill takes effect. And we intend to take this fight to the courts to make sure Kentuckians’ right to that care will continue," Duke said.  

Louisville-based Fairness Campaign executive director Chris Hartman said that while opponents of SB 150 didn’t prevail in the legislature "our defeat is temporary. We will not lose in court."

"And we are winning in so many other ways. Thousands of Kentucky kids came to the Capitol today to make their voices heard against the worst anti-trans bill in the nation. They are our hope for a Kentucky future that is more fair, more just, and more beautifully diverse and accepting than ever before.

David Walls, executive director of The Family Foundation, called the vote "a win for children and their parents in Kentucky. SB 150 will protect the lives of Kentucky children by setting policy in alignment with the truth that every child is created as a male or female and deserves to be loved, treated with dignity, and accepted for who they really are."

Walls said the bill contained "commonsense student privacy protections in restrooms and locker rooms, along with the right of parents to have a say in their child’s education."

Daniel Cameron, Kentucky's attorney general and a Republican candidate for governor, said in a Tweet on Wednesday afternoon said he is "ready to defend this law and protect the well-being of our most precious resource, our children."

This story will be updated.

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