Kentucky Legislature Enacts Parental Rights, Student Privacy, Help Not Harm Act over Governor’s Veto
The Kentucky General Assembly voted Wednesday to override a veto by Governor Andy Beshear (D) of SB 150. The Senate voted 29-8 shortly after 2 p.m., and the House voted 76-23 at around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Only a simple majority of both chambers was needed for a veto override.
The four-part bill upholds parents’ right to know how their child identifies at school, restricts sex education curriculum with parental consent, grade, and content limits, protects student privacy from members of the opposite sex in bathrooms and locker rooms, and forbids gender transition procedures on minors.
The multi-part bill arrived via a tumultuous path. The Kentucky General Assembly had a March 16 deadline to pass any legislation they expected the governor to veto, in order to have time to override the veto before the legislative session adjourns. One such bill was a standalone ban on gender transition procedures for minors (HB 470), which passed the House on March 2.
At the last minute, the Senate adopted an amendment from the floor on March 15, which banned gender transition surgeries but permitted hormonal treatments. That move nearly killed conservative efforts to protect children in the 2023 legislative session, explained David Walls, executive director of the Kentucky Family Foundation.
But conservatives rallied in an overnight scramble, persuading senators to back a slimmed-down version of the act if amended into another bill. The bill they chose was the parental rights bill SB 150, which the Senate had already passed 29-6 on February 16. On March 16, the final day, the House amended in the additional protections for children, passed the bill 75-22, and returned it to the Senate. The Senate took up SB 150 the same day and concurred 30-7 in the House amendments.
On March 24, Governor Beshear vetoed the bill as he said he would. In his veto message, Beshear alleged the bill “rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decision for their children” and “strips freedom from parents to make personal family decisions on the names their children are called and how people should refer to them.” He also claimed that it “turns educators and administrators into investigators that must listen in on student conversations” and “will cause an increase in suicide among Kentucky’s youth.”
“SB 150 simply allows Kentucky’s kids to be kids and ensures that their parents are empowered and aren’t kept in the dark,” Walls responded in a press release. “Kentuckians overwhelmingly support SB 150’s commonsense student privacy protections in restrooms and locker rooms, along with the right of parents to have a say in their child’s education.”
Transgender activist groups have maintained furious pressure on Kentucky legislators to let Beshear’s veto stand. “It’s a fear and hatred campaign going on right now,” said Walls, with transgender activists adopting extreme tactics, including showing up at senators’ houses. Hundreds of protestors arrived at the capitol hours before the state House and Senate convened to consider the veto, including students from more than half a dozen elementary, middle, and high schools. Opponents and supporters of the bill were in force in and around the capitol throughout the day. Just before the House voted on the veto override, protestors in the balcony of the House chamber disrupted the proceedings with loud chants, and had to be escorted out by Kentucky State Police.
Advocacy groups have also employed dramatic language to demonstrate their displeasure. State legislative director for the pro-transgender Human Rights Coalition Cathryn Oakley called the bill “nothing but a desperate and cruel effort by extremist politicians in Kentucky to stigmatize, marginalize and erase the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender youth.” The ACLU, which plans to sue to block the bill, claimed it was “nothing more than a desperate attempt to score political points by targeting people who simply want to live their lives.”
“SB 150 will save the lives of Kentucky children by setting policy in alignment with the truth that every child is created as a biological male or female and deserves to be loved, treated with dignity, and accepted for who they really are,” Walls said.
The Kentucky legislature becomes the fifth to pass legislation protecting minors from gender transition procedures this year, following Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah. Florida professional licensing boards earlier this year prohibited gender transition procedures on minors without legislative action. Alabama (2022) and Arkansas (2021) enacted similar laws in previous legislative sessions, which are now undergoing legal challenges. Kentucky becomes the second state after Arkansas to pass such a law by overriding a veto.
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.