Very few new and original ideas get traction in the Kentucky General Assembly. Year after year, legislators look at the bills making headlines across the country and file them here in the Commonwealth. LGBTQ Kentuckians are among this year’s targets of copycat legislation, facing a series of ill-conceived bills, best described as a Slate of Hate.
The most disturbing and dangerous of the bills on the Slate of Hate is an attempt to restrict and criminalize health care for transgender minors. Under Representative Maddox’s House Bill 321, clinicians could be charged with a felony and face civil penalties for providing gender-affirming medical care to transgender youth. This outrageous proposal runs counter to medical science, prevailing standards of treatment for young transgender people, bodily autonomy, and basic human dignity. Blanket bans on treatment disrupt medically necessary care and cause negative health outcomes, including anxiety, depression, and suicidality.
Under another proposal, House Bill 132, public schools could discriminate against transgender students by controlling their access to restrooms and locker rooms. Lawmakers filed this bill under the guise of “privacy protections.” The logic behind HB 132 is deeply flawed. All of us, including transgender people, care about safety and privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms. It is already illegal to enter a bathroom or locker room for the purpose of harming someone or invading someone’s privacy. Nothing in this bill would change that.
Across the hall in the Kentucky Senate, yet another proposal sets its sights on young transgender people. SB 114, the so-called “Save Women’s Sports Act,” would prohibit “male students” from participating in athletic teams, activities, and sports designated for “girls”. A provision of SB 114 says if a challenge to a student’s gender is filed and the student still wants to compete, they would have to undergo an exam with a qualified medical provider to assess their internal and external reproductive anatomy, their normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone, and an analysis of their genetic makeup. As a parent, it is shocking to see a legislator propose such an intrusive invasion of privacy. Transgender kids simply want to participate in life at school like other young people.
Before your eyes glaze over or you think you shouldn’t care because you (think) you don’t know any transgender people, Senate Bill 90 should give you pause. This bill could allow every type of health care institution in the Commonwealth to refuse to provide any service that is in conflict with their personal beliefs unless the situation is an emergency. This right to deny healthcare would extend to medical school students and staff, as well as employees of a health care institution, including doctors, nurses, counselors, pharmacists, assistants, and receptionists. For example, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a doctor's prescription for fertility drugs for a lesbian, or a prescription for hormones for a transgender person. This bill also has the potential for far-reaching consequences outside of the LGBTQ community, opening up the possibility of discrimination against people of color, religious minorities, and others.
Versions of all of these bills are circulating in other states. Currently, South Dakota is making national headlines as these Slate of Hate policies advance through the legislature there. These bills haven’t even reached final passage in South Dakota, but their very existence has led to implicit permission from state leaders to rhetorically attack LGBTQ people. I hope Kentucky politicians resist the urge to advance this coordinated election-year attack any further. Unfortunately, we can’t count on that. We have to tell our legislators that medical professionals, not politicians, should decide what medical care is in the best interest of a patient. We have to tell our legislators we won’t stand for any child in the Commonwealth being singled out for discrimination, bullying, and harassment.