Kentucky Senate Quietly Approves Bill Targeting Trans Students

Kentucky Senate Quietly Approves Bill Targeting Trans Students

The Kentucky state Senate Friday approved a bill that would restrict transgender students' access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and other gender-segregated facilities on campus, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader

Friday's 27-9 vote saw three Republicans opposing Senate Bill 76, along with six Democrats in the Republican-controlled chamber. The bill now moves on to the state House, where Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo has indicated it is likely to die, according to the Herald-Leader

With just moments of public notice on Monday, the Kentucky Senate Education Committee approved the bill, after it failed to pass out of the same committee last Thursday, the Herald-Leader reports. Monday's vote, which sent the bill to the Senate floor, was 8-1 and took place just moments after the Senate president told reporters he did not know if the bill would even be considered.

"Since [last] Friday, the committee had posted its agenda for Monday as 'pending,'" reports the Herald-Leader. "Usually, a committee will list the bills it is going to consider on its agenda so the public will know what it is doing."

But that didn't happen with SB 76, which declares "an emergency" "relating to the physical privacy of students." The bill, authored by Republican Sen. C.B. Embry Jr., seeks to create a new law that requires students to use the restrooms, locker rooms, and showers which correspond with their sex assigned at birth, which the bill refers to as "biological sex." 

The legislation defines "biological sex" as "the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person's chromosomes, and is identified at birth by a person's anatomy." It specifically prohibits transgender students from using facilities that correspond with their gender identity, if that identity does not match what they were assigned at birth. Instead, the bill suggests that trans students may use a single-stall, unisex bathroom.

The Herald-Leader notes that the bill was drafted in response to a controversy that arose last year when Louisville Atherton High School adopted a policy allowing trans students to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity, after a trans girl sought equal access to the girls' facilities. 

While advocates of the bill claim it is necessary to protect the "privacy" of cisgender (nontrans) students, the lone elected official to vote against the bill in Monday's committee, Sen. Reginald Thomas, said those arguments reminded him — a black man — of an era when white students claimed to be afraid to share a bathroom with students of color. 

Henry Brousseau, a 16-year-old transgender boy who attends Louisville Collegiate School, testified against the bill at the first committee hearing but was unable to speak at Monday's hearing because of the short notice. The teen, who was assigned female at birth but told lawmakers he's identified as male for three years, told the Herald-Leader he was "deeply disappointed" by the bill's advancement. 

Friday's vote was blasted by LGBT groups and allies, who claimed the state Senate was "prioritizing discrimination." 

"What an embarrassment the Kentucky Senate has made of our commonwealth today," said Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman in a statement Friday. "The chamber has made headlines prioritizing a bill in its Education Committee that does nothing but further marginalize one of Kentucky's most vulnerable populations. The Senate has acted shamefully this week."

Conservative lawmakers in Texas and Florida have also introduced bills this year criminalizing transgender people's restroom use, claiming that trans-inclusive policies make it easier for sexual predators to sneak into women's bathrooms. 

In reality, transgender people are at a starkly heightened risk of being the victims of violence when they use public facilities. And with hundreds of trans-inclusive equal accommodation ordinances around the country in force for decades, there has never been a single verified instance of someone "pretending" to be trans to gain bathroom access to and harass a cisgender person. 

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