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Ky. lawmakers override veto, banning trans athletes from girls and women’s sports teams

Democratic Sen. Karen Berg, of Louisville, was among four to speak about negative consequences of abortion restriction. She's pictured here during the legislative session in February.
Democratic Sen. Karen Berg, of Louisville, was among four to speak about negative consequences of abortion restriction. She's pictured here during the legislative session in February.

Transgender girls as young as sixth grade will no longer be allowed to compete on girls and women’s sports teams in Kentucky, after the GOP-led General Assembly overrode a veto from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

The measure requires that athletes on women’s and girls sports teams in middle school, high school and college are labeled female on their birth certificates. It’s similar to other GOP-backed measures that have passed in many other states. Supporters of the measures say their goal is to “protect women’s sports.” 

“Their sports are being invaded by biological males that are taking over all across the United States of America,” Winchester Republican Ryan Dotson said on the House floor, in support of overriding Beshear’s veto. Dotson sponsored a similar measure in the House.

LGBTQ advocates say the measures are politically motivated and will harm transgender youth, who are already more likely to struggle with mental health challenges.

“Fellow legislators, if the idea of trans children makes you uncomfortable, too bad. Toughen up,” Louisville Democrat Josie Raymond said.

“If trans women athletes were such a threat to athletes born female, why don't they dominate the Olympics and NCAA women's tournament?” Raymond continued. “It's this body that is a threat to children who need our support, to strong women and to progress.”

The House voted 72-23 and the Senate voted 28-8 to override Beshear’s veto.

All Republicans in the legislature voted to override Beshear's veto, except for Lexington Rep. Killian Timoney, Lexington Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr and Wilder Sen. Wil Schroder. All Democrats voted against, except for Grayson Sen. Robin Webb, Whitesburg Rep. Angie Hatton and Martin Rep. Ashley Tackett Lafferty.

Louisville Democratic Rep. Karen Berg voted against the override. Berg, who is the mother of a transgender child, noted that trans people havesome of the highest suicide rates of any group. She cast her no vote with a message to transgender kids in Kentucky:

“It does get better, and just because everybody doesn't understand who you are, does not mean it is time to give up,” she said.

Samuel Crankshaw, spokesperson for the ACLU of Kentucky, blasted the legislature’s decision in an emailed statement.

“This bill is a solution in search of a non-existent problem that is rooted in hate and unconstitutional. By enacting SB83, lawmakers are jeopardizing our children’s mental health, physical well-being, and ability to access educational opportunities comparable to their peers,” Crankshaw said.

The ACLU pointed to court cases inIdahoand West Virginia, where federal judges have blocked similar bans from going into effect while the courts consider lawsuits brought by civil rights groups. The Republican governors of Indiana and Utah recently vetoed similar legislation, saying it would likely be challenged in court.

Fairness Campaign Executive Director Chris Hartman told WFPL “costly lawsuits resulting from this bill will certainly ensue.”

If you are thinking of harming yourself, you can contact the Trevor Project, which provides free, confidential counselors who specialize in helping LGBTQ youth.

Aprile Rickert contributed to this reporting.

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Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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