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Advocates rally for fairness as anti-LGBTQ bills advance in Ky. Legislature

Gov. Andy Beshear speaks at a lectern surrounded by LGBTQ advocates inside Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Ryland Barton
Gov. Andy Beshear speaks at the 2023 Fairness Rally in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort.

Advocates decried anti-LGBTQ bills moving through the Kentucky Legislature during a rally on Wednesday.

The annual Fairness Rally has been an opportunity for LGBTQ rights advocates to push for causes like fairness ordinances—local initiatives that protect rights to employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

But this year the speeches took aim at several anti-trans bills that have advanced in the legislature, like so-called “parents rights” bills that ban schools from requiring staff to use correct pronouns for trans and nonbinary students.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear spoke at the rally, saying “everyone is our neighbor, no exceptions.”

“We cannot reach our full potential unless each and every one of us feels supported. Remember this is your state Capitol and as long as I’m governor, you are absolutely welcome here,” Beshear said.

Beshear is the first Kentucky governor to speak at the rally. Some Republicans have latched on to his appearances as political fodder.

During a 2020 special election rally for an eastern Kentucky legislative district, Republican state Sen. Phillip Wheeler, of Pikeville, passed around a photo of Beshear posing with a group of Fairness Rally attendees dressed in drag. In a video of the gathering, Wheeler can be heard saying the Democratic Party “is out there trying to convince our children this is the right way to live.”

And anti-LGBTQ legislation has continued to garner support in the Republican-led legislature.

Last year, passed a bill banning trans girls from playing on girls school sports teams.

This year, lawmakers are considering several anti-trans proposals, including a “bathroom bill” that bars trans people from using bathrooms of their gender identity and a measure banning gender affirming surgery for minors.

Sen. Karen Berg, a Democrat from Louisville, spoke at the rally. Her son Henry, a trans advocate who frequently spoke at the legislature, died by suicide late last year.

“Thank you for being willing to show the people up here who you are. Thank you for coming, thank you for caring. Thank you for all the love and support that I have received since the death of my son,” Berg said.

Rep. Keturah Herron, a Democrat from Louisville and first openly LGBTQ member of the legislature, spoke against the anti-LGBTQ bills.

“I want to lift up the lives that have been lost due to anti-queer, anti-trans, anti-humanity and flat-out foolishness from a small and loud group of people,” Herron said.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can reach the national suicide prevention hotline at 988.

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