Kentucky legislators have overridden Gov. Andy Beshear's veto of a bill barring transgender girls and women from competing with cisgender females in school sports.
The vote to override, which came Wednesday, was 29-8 in the Senate and 72-23 in the House, NBC News reports. The law took effect immediately thereafter. It affects students from sixth grade through college.
Beshear, a Democrat, vetoed the bill last week, saying it is not only discriminatory but ignores the steps taken by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to assure that no student-athlete who has an unfair advantage can compete. "Transgender children deserve public officials' efforts to demonstrate that they are valued members of our community through compassion, kindness, and empathy, even if not understanding," he said in a veto message. Also, activists said there is only one trans girl currently playing school sports in Kentucky.
Kentucky now joins Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia in enacting such a law, although enforcement of the Idaho and West Virginia laws is halted while lawsuits proceed. Utah's passed through an override of Gov. Spencer Cox's veto. Governors in Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, and North Dakota have also vetoed such bills.
LGBTQ+ activists decried Kentucky's override. "Governor Beshear and Governor Cox of Utah both, in their veto statements, made it clear that they approach this conversation about children with compassion, as any conversation about children should be approached with compassion," Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley said in a press release. "It isn't necessary to understand what it means to be transgender in order to understand that kids want to be able to play school sports on a team where they can be included and celebrated for being who they really are. On the other hand, the Kentucky General Assembly chose to politicize these kids, to isolate them, to prevent them from being included and to prevent them from being able to play with their friends -- and all without addressing the actual challenges facing women's sports programs, like chronic underfunding. Kentucky's legislators should never forget that they are culpable for the harm that they are causing to children, who must now bear the weight of even more discrimination.
"We sincerely thank Gov. Beshear for seeing the humanity of transgender youth and speaking out against this discriminatory legislation. The Human Rights Campaign condemns this action by the Kentucky General Assembly and will continue to use every tool at our disposal to fight for the rights all transgender youth and their families."
"Governor Beshear was the third governor this year to uphold the dignity of transgender and nonbinary youth, and veto an attempt by lawmakers to write them out of existence. While those young people continue to face unrelenting political attacks, the Kentucky legislature voted to override that act of courage and compassion, pushing these marginalized youth even further to the sidelines," added Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. "This bill claimed to solve a problem of 'fairness' in school sports in Kentucky that didn't exist, but its negative impacts on the mental health and well-being of trans and nonbinary youth -- young people who already face disproportionate rates of bullying, depression, and suicide -- are very real. To the young people in Kentucky watching tonight: You are stronger than they know. We are here for you, we will fight for you, and we are not going anywhere."