Kentucky’s Democrat governor vetoes bill banning gender transition surgeries for children

Legislation would also prohibit schools from providing sexual education for children in elementary school.

Published: March 24, 2023 3:31pm

Updated: March 25, 2023 9:23am

(The Center Square) -

The primary sponsor of a controversial bill that Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed Friday called out the Democrat for kowtowing to party politics.

At the same time, the ACLU said Friday it was ready to sue if the veto gets overturned.

Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 150, a wide-ranging bill that would ban gender transition surgeries for children and prohibit schools from providing sexual education for children in elementary school.

It also includes provisions that would require students to use facilities aligned with their biological sex and mandate school districts contact parents if their child seeks mental health services. The bill would also block state education leaders from developing policies requiring or recommending school personnel use a student’s preferred pronouns.

While state Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, said the bill was designed to “strengthen parental engagement,” the ACLU of Kentucky said the bill would actually strip parents of their rights to provide their children with the care and support they may need.

The Senate passed the original version of the bill, which included most of the education portions of the final bill, with a party-line 29-6 vote Feb. 16, but it languished in the House for most of the next month. Then, on March 16 – the final day before the veto period started – an amended version of the bill, which inserted the medical procedure and school facilities language, made its way to the House floor. It passed 75-22.

Less than 90 minutes later, the Senate concurred with the House’s changes in a 30-7 vote.

In his veto message to the General Assembly, Beshear said SB 150 “rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children,” He also feared it would lead to more suicides among transgender youth.

Wise countered the bill “reinforces a positive atmosphere in the classroom and removes unnecessary distraction” in schools.

“Parents should look at this veto as a slap in the face,” the senator said. “It’s clear Gov. Beshear cares more about woke ideologues and D.C. bureaucrats than parents and students here in Kentucky.”

In Kentucky, the legislature can override any veto with a majority of the members in both chambers. There are 100 House and 37 Senate members, with Republicans holding 80 and 30 in each chamber, respectively.

A veto override could happen as early as Wednesday when lawmakers return to Frankfort for the final two days of the session. The bill’s final version includes an emergency clause, which means it would take effect immediately if the General Assembly votes to overturn Beshear’s veto.

ACLU-KY Communications Director Angela Cooper told The Center Square in an email Friday that the organization stands ready to file a lawsuit should a veto override happen.

She also called on lawmakers to stop trying “to score cheap political points” and focus instead on the real needs of schools, teachers and students.

“SB 150 was rushed through the legislative process in a shameful, secretive process at the 11th hour,” Cooper said. “Trans Kentuckians, medical and mental health professionals and accredited professional associations pleaded with lawmakers to listen to the experts, not harmful rhetoric based in fear and hate. Their pleas fell on deaf ears as the General Assembly passed the bill in a matter of hours.”

The state Republican Party released a statement on Twitter Friday afternoon saying Beshear failed to protect Kentucky’s kids.

“It's obvious more than ever, that Beshear is not the moderate he pretends to be but is instead a left-wing radical,” the party said.

This is an election year in Kentucky. Beshear is seeking re-election for a second term and has two other Democrats challenging him. Wise, meanwhile, is the lieutenant gubernatorial pick for Republican gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft, who is one of a dozen Republicans running in the May primary.

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