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featured Senate committee advances childhood gender protection bill


FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) — In an emotional committee meeting Tuesday, a transgender-related bill that bans access to gender-affirming medical care for those under 18 was approved by the GOP-led committee, sending it to the full Kentucky Senate.

The measure grew in scope before emerging from the Senate committee. The panel tacked on elements of other trans-related proposals introduced this year. One key addition would forbid Kentucky schools from discussing gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.

Another addition would allow teachers to refuse to refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns. It also would require that parents be given notice and an opportunity to review materials before content relating to sexuality is taught at their children’s school.

The bill would apply specifically to hormone and surgical treatments. The measure would designate gender-transition care for those under 18 as unethical and unprofessional conduct by health care providers. Their licenses to practice would be revoked for providing such treatment if the measure becomes law.

Several lawmakers pushed back against the bill. Both sides had people testify on their behalf in the highly charged committee meeting.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, filed an amendment to the bill late Tuesday night after a three-hour caucus meeting.

The amendment still bans surgery for minors with gender dysphoria, and limits medication only to “reversible puberty-blocking drugs” with parental consent. The amendment would also limit nonsurgical medical treatments.

The measure could be heard in the Senate on Wednesday with those changes. If that happens and is approved, it goes back to the House for approval of the changes. Time is running out on getting bills done in time to be veto-proof.

Supporters say the intent is to protect children from medical decisions that would be irreversible.

“I don’t think this bill could be strong enough,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Tichenor. “We’re talking about irreparable, permanent changes to a child. Their brains are not developed … They have no idea what the consequences could be until they get to that age, and at that point you cannot undo what is being done.”

Nationally, state lawmakers are approving extensive measures against LGBTQ individuals this year, from bills targeting trans athletes and drag performers to ones limiting gender-affirming care. In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves recently signed a bill to ban gender-affirming hormones or surgery in the state for anyone younger than 18. The Republican governors of South Dakota and Utah have signed bans on gender-affirming care this year.

Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee are the latest states to pass new legislation protecting minors from transgender surgery and hormonal treatment.

Similar bills are progressing in 22 states, according to tracking sites.

While a 2021 law in Arkansas is enjoined in federal court, the Arkansas legislature sent a new bill March 8 to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders to strengthen legal protections for minors.

The Arkansas bill would extend to 18 years past adulthood the amount of time minors who received such treatment can bring legal action against their doctors, a move experts say would adversely impact a physician’s ability to obtain malpractice insurance. The bill, as passed, does not apply to children born “with a medically verifiable disorder of sex development,” a stipulation widely present in such legislation.

Brent Leatherwood, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has described such legislation as a vital protection for children.

“Christians have long said the state has the God-given role to protect innocent lives and that principle absolutely applies here,” Leatherwood told Baptist Press. “Children should not be subject to social experimentation. These proposals will ensure that doesn’t occur in these states.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed March 2 the law that takes effect on July 1 and bans all forms of gender-transforming treatment on children under the age of 18. The bill, as written, establishes a 30-year statute of limitations on lawsuits alleging harm from such treatments, sets a 10-year statute of limitations alleging death from such treatments, and negates as a legal defense parental consent — or the consent of the patient — for the treatment.

The Mississippi Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures Act (REAP) signed Feb. 28 by Gov. Tate Reeves and effective immediately, prohibits transgender treatment on children under age 18, criminalizes any intentional action that “aids or abets the performance or inducement of gender transition procedures” on minors, and automatically revokes the medical licenses of doctors and those of nonphysician healthcare professionals who provide such treatment.

Like Tennessee, the Mississippi law establishes a 30-year statute of limitations on lawsuits alleging harm from gender-altering treatments on minors.

Alabama’s law criminalizing the use of puberty blockers and hormones on transgender children 18 and younger has been blocked since May 2022 through a court challenge.

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