Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed a controversial bill Friday that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth in Kentucky.
In addition to banning puberty-blockers, hormones and surgeries for kids under 18, Senate Bill 150 would also ban lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation, prevents trans students from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity and stops school districts from requiring teachers use a student’s pronouns if they don’t align with their sex assigned at birth.
The Republican-dominated legislature will return on Wednesday and is likely to override this veto, which passed with near-unanimous GOP support.
In his veto message Friday, Beshear reiterated much of the criticism he’d said just a day earlier at a news conference.
“Senate Bill 150 allows too much government interference in personal health care issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children,” he wrote. “Senate Bill 150 further strips freedom from parents to make personal family decisions on the names their children are called and how people should refer to them.”
He cited statistics on youth mental health and suicide, including that nearly 1 in 5 trans or nonbinary youth have attempted suicide, according to the Trevor Project.
“Improving access to gender-affirming care is an important means of improving health outcomes for the transgender population,” Beshear wrote. “Senate Bill 150 will cause an increase in suicide among Kentucky’s youth.”
Bill sponsor Sen. Max Wise, a Campbellsville Republican and runningmate of GOP gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft, “admonished” Beshear’s decision to put “party over Kentuckians’ wish to eliminate woke ideologies” in a statement.
“Parents should look at this veto as a slap in the face,” Wise wrote. “It’s clear Governor Beshear cares more about woke ideologues and D.C. bureaucrats than parents and students here in Kentucky. I look forward to the legislature overriding this veto, and protecting children from the irreparable harm of gender transition surgeries by making SB 150 law.”
Whereas critics of the bill — including the Human Rights Campaign, the ACLU of Kentucky and the Trevor Project — have called it the most “extreme” and “worst” anti-trans bill in the nation, Wise said it’s “one of the largest omnibus bills in the country strengthening protections” for kids.
The Fairness Campaign, a Kentucky LGBTQ rights group, praised Beshear, calling him “Kentucky’s most pro-equality governor.”
“SB 150 will only lead to disaster and despair for transgender Kentucky kids and their families,” Executive Director Chris Hartman wrote in a statement. “That’s why thousands of Kentuckians sent messages opposing SB 150 and countless Kentucky doctors showed up in Frankfort to testify against it. We urge state lawmakers to read the governor’s veto message, listen to medical professionals, and sustain Governor Beshear’s veto.”
Veto reaction swift on SB 150
Beshear is a Democrat seeking a second term in office this election year in a state that went overwhelming for former President Donald Trump in 2020.
The reaction to Beshear’s veto was swift, with Republican Party of Kentucky spokesperson Sean Southard saying “today may very well be remembered as the day Andy Beshear lost his bid for re-election.”
“Andy Beshear thinks it’s okay for children to have access to life-altering sex change surgery and drugs before they turn 18. Today, he revealed how radical he truly is,” Southard said in a statement. “Is Andy Beshear the Governor of Kentucky or California? Despite years of attempting to look like a moderate, he has shown that he will never stand up to the special left-wing interests that bankroll his campaign.
“Kentucky voters will have an opportunity this fall to rid our state of this far-left Governor and replace him with a Republican who will work to protect children.”
The Kentucky Democratic Party said Beshear did the right thing by standing up for Kentucky kids and families.
“SB150 is the most extreme anti-LGBTQ bill in America,” the KDP said on Twitter. “It gives big government more control over your family’s lives, rips away parents’ rights, makes our children less safe and promotes hate.”
The Kentucky Academy of Science emailed lawmakers Thursday, urging them to let Beshear’s veto stand — even before the veto was issued.
“We refuse to subject our students to the harm and bigotry allowed by this bill, and we will work to protect them,” the statement said. “As a scientific society, we hold that our state should respect health professionals as they make decisions for their patients based on the best medical science available.”
What’s in Senate Bill 150?
But the sweeping bill is much more than a ban on gender-affirming care.
In its original form, Senate Bill 150 was far more narrow in scope. It prohibited schools from requiring or recommending teachers use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns, and required schools to notify parents when curriculum related to human sexuality was going to be taught.
But last Thursday — the final day of session before the veto recess began — was replaced with a committee substitute that added the gender-affirming care ban, threatens doctors who violate the law with the loss of their license, a ban on students receiving information “studying or exploring gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation” and a so-called “bathroom bill” provision governing where transgender students may use the facilities.