Repubs attacking LGBTQ via four bills in KYGA23 Skip to content

Repubs attacking LGBTQ via four bills in KYGA23

Chris Hartman says these are “don’t-say-gay, don’t-say-trans bills on steroids.”

4 min read

Republican lawmakers have introduced a quartet of bills dealing with LGBTQ issues, one of which, SB 150, has cleared a Senate committee on an 11-1 party-line vote and seems on the fast track to passage.

Supporters insist that SB 150 and its companions – SB 102 and HB 173 and HB 177 -- aren't based on bigotry.

Opponents vehemently disagree. "There has been a war against queer people since there was a status quo to maintain, and we are at a place in history yet again where we are asking: when will we stop the pattern of marginalizing and ultimately killing queer people?" wrote Queer Kentucky's Bella Townsend.

In a statement on its Facebook page, KY 120 United AFT blasted “HB173, SB150, and any other legislation that attacks or isolates Kentucky’s children.”

The statement reads:

“While we are disgusted and disappointed, we are not surprised that the nasty bigotry and hate towards our LGBTQ+ community has now been packaged by the majority party nicely and neatly into a “parental rights” bill. We live in a state with one of the highest child abuse rates per capita; we can accurately say that not all children are safe at home. So to take schools, a safe space where these children are protected and respected as they grow, and to make it into a political machine that harasses children and teachers at the whims of Frankfort, is something we will not tolerate.

“The irony of this bill dropping shortly after a committee meeting regarding the teacher shortage is not lost on us. It was clearly lost on some of the people sitting on that committee.

“Let us be clear – we will fight against and stand firmly opposed to ANY bill that bullies or singles out the students we serve or the teachers who serve them. We will also protect and defend our LGBTQ staff members from these disgusting and clearly politically motivated attacks. We trust that this is what ALL parents expect from public schools, and we will fight alongside them to protect our students and teachers every step of the way.”

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Kentucky Fairness Campaign, called the legislation “don’t-say-gay, don’t-say-trans bills on steroids. They are really Frankenstein monsters of anti-fairness laws – hydras of hate with all sorts of heads out there that are full of discriminatory, prejudicial, and downright deadly provisions.”

Hartman said the bills are iterations of the controversial “Don't Say Gay or Trans” measure that the Republican-majority Florida legislature passed at the urging of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis. The idea is to “censor schools from ever talking about LGBTQ people,” according to Hartman.

He and other critics of LGBTQ bills in Kentucky and elsewhere say the legislation is deliberately deceptive – carefully worded to make the measures sound like they expand parental and student rights. Bruce Maples, who publishes Forward Kentucky online, wrote that SB 150 includes “provisions for parents to decline physical and mental health services available through the school ... and reinforces the right of parents to examine any records related to their child held by the school.” In addition, the measure forbids school systems to “keep any student information from their parents.”

He acknowledged that “most people would consider these to be the way things should work in schools,” but warned, “what they don’t realize is that those provisions are specifically aimed at students who are struggling with their gender identity, and may confide in a teacher or counselor, or avail themselves of confidential health services.”

Added Maples: “The bill goes on to say that schools cannot require use of proper pronouns for trans students. (Of course, the bill never actually uses the word 'trans.' Heaven forbid we honor the concept by actually naming it.) The bill doesn’t address anyone using such pronouns voluntarily.

“And finally, the bill spends some time talking about sex ed classes, including allowing parents to inspect the content, to get notified if a sex ed class is planned, and to refuse to allow their child to participate in that class or curriculum. Again, the concern is that something other than straight hetero sex be discussed.”

Hartman said SB 102 and HB 173 “will force trans students to use restrooms that don’t match their gender identity, which will make them incredibly vulnerable not just to bullying and harassment but also to violence and sexual assault. Restroom access is imperative for the health and safety not just for our trans youth but for all kids.”

He also said that giving “parents broad authority over every aspect of their child’s education” will undermine the ability of teachers to teach “for time immemorial and have a disastrous effect on the quality of education that the vast majority of Kentucky students want and that all students deserve.”

While SB 150 seems to have the best chance of passing, Hartman worries that any of the bills could win approval from “the super, super, diddly-dooper majority that is controlling everything.” The Republicans enjoy an 80-20 bulge in the House and a 31-6 edge in the Senate. (A special election to fill the seat vacated by minority Leader Morgan McGarvey,  who was elected to Congress, is set for Feb. 21.) The GOP can muster more than enough votes to override any veto from Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat.

Skeptics suspect politics is the main reason for LGBTQ bills. DeSantis evidently plans to challenge Donald Trump in the GOP presidential primaries. Trump twice carried Kentucky in blowouts. Mostly rural and Bible Belt conservative, the Bluegrass State is one of the reddest of the Republican Red states.

SB 150’s sponsor is Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville). He’s running for lieutenant governor in the May primary on a ticket with Kelly Craft.

Craft doubtless “would love to tout that her running mate wrote and passed a bill on parents’ rights in schools, stopping the woke agenda of our school systems and protecting Kentucky’s children from the dangers of being persuaded to become trans,” according to Maples.

Hence, Maples predicted SB 150 is “going to pass like a locomotive at full speed on that track.” He’s waiting to see  “how long it takes for it to appear in a Kelly Craft ad.”


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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY