Kentucky's Transphobic Legislation Dies After 'Last Ditch Effort'

Kentucky's Transphobic Legislation Dies After 'Last Ditch Effort'

A proposed Kentucky law that trans advocates say would have empowered students to become "bathroom bullies" towards their transgender classmates failed on the last working day of the Senate's current session, Kentucky's Fairness Coalition announced in a Tuesday statement.

If passed, Senate Bill 76, originally introduced by Republican Senator C.B. Embry, Jr., would have restricted trans students' access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and other gender-segreated facilities on school campuses. On February 23, SB 76 quietly passed through the Republican-controlled state Senate in a 27-9 vote, just days after it had passed the Senate Education Committee with only minutes of notice, on a vote taken when the only Democrat seated on the committee was out of the room. 

Once SB 76 moved to the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, however, it was unable to advance in its original form, reports the Fairness Coalition. The House refused to hear the bill, which would have required all students to use the bathroom that accorded with their "biological sex" — a "physical condition of being male or female" that the bill stated was determined by a student's chromosomes and anatomy at birth. The legislation also suggested that trans students may use a single-stall, unisex bathroom, and that cisgender (nontrans) students sharing a bathroom with a trans student would experience "psychological, emotional, and physical harm" that opened schools to legal action.

On Tuesday, in what the Fairness Coalition called a "last-ditch effort," Sen. Embry added the proposed legislation as an amendment, along with a second piece of failed legislation titled the "Student Religious Speech Bill," to the unrelated student-authored House Bill 236 about choosing school superintendents. Hundreds of Kentucky high school students rallied at the state capitol on Tuesday, against both amendments to House Bill 236 — and while  the "Bathroom Bully Bill" amendment was ultimately removed, HB 236 passed with the "religious speech" amendment intact.

Following voting, Democratic Senator Reggie Thomas lamented the House's inability to send a "clean bill" to the governor, reports local news station WMKY. "This Senate has succeeded in doing one thing," he declared. "We have now shown every young person across this state how messy, how futile, and how ineffective government is."

Trans advocates are still lauding the House's decision, whether it was a result of government inefficiencies, a push for trans youth rights, or both. "We are elated that this mean-spirited legilsation has failed," Transgender Legal Denfense and Education Fund Executive Director Michael Silverman said in a statement. "Denying students access to bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with who they are is cruel. It is also illegal, as it violates Title IX's anti-discrimination provsions as interpreted by the United States Departments of Justice and Education."

Similar "bathroom bills" targeting trans students are currently being considered in both Texas and Minnesota, while bills barring people using public facilities that do not accord with their assigned birth gender are being debated in Texas, Missouri, and Florida — with the latter state's proposed law already passing two committee votes in the House.

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