FRANKFORTToday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Kentucky's Fairness Campaign praised Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear for vetoing Senate Bill 83, legislation that would deny transgender students in Kentucky the opportunity to play school sports with their peers. Though Governor Beshear vetoed the bill, the House and Senate could override the veto with a simple majority vote in both chambers. It's now on Kentucky legislators to uphold the veto. Otherwise, transgender youth will be denied the social, physical and emotional benefits of playing school sports. The Commonwealth would also likely join the ranks of Florida, Idaho, Tennessee and West Virginia, where similar legislation has faced costly lawsuits that needlessly waste taxpayer dollars.
"Governor Beshear did the right thing today vetoing this bill — a bill that would only cause problems, not solve them, by singling out Kentucky's transgender children for exclusion and discrimination in their own schools," said Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley. "With the well-being of transgender youth in the balance, Governor Beshear lived up to Kentucky values and to his catchphrase 'Team Kentucky.' We urge lawmakers to uphold the veto because transgender children, like all Kentucky children, deserve better than being treated as political pawns - what they deserve is to be able to have fun with their friends, exercise, and learn how to be part of a team. This veto is a strong statement of Kentucky values and the legislature must allow it to stand."
"I applaud Governor Beshear for doing the right thing today and vetoing a harmful piece of legislation that would deprive transgender girls and young women of the opportunity to grow and learn from being on a team, simply because of who they are," said Fairness Campaign Executive Director Chris Hartman. "From the start, this bill has been more about fear than fairness. In Kentucky's entire school system, there is only one openly transgender girl we know about who is playing on a school sports team. That student started her school's field hockey team, recruited all of the other team members, and just wants the opportunity to play with her friends during her eighth-grade year. But rather than tackle any of the state's real issues, legislators decided to use their time and power to bully this student and others like her. While we are pleased with the Governor's actions today, the rights of transgender people in Kentucky are still in danger. We urge state lawmakers to follow the lead of Governor Beshear and show compassion to transgender people in our commonwealth by not overriding this veto."
Governor Beshear's veto of SB 83 comes after a historically bad 2021 session that saw a record number of anti-transgender bills introduced and passed across the country. Caught in the crosshairs of anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials' divisive political strategy are kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence kids who face relentless targeting and increasing levels of discrimination in their community, as evidenced by the record incidents of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-binary people in 2021.
By including collegiate athletics, SB 83 runs afoul of NCAA rules, threatening Kentucky's participation in NCAA sports and championship tournaments.
The NCAA's recent guidance asks each sport's national governing body to determine rules that balance fairness and inclusion. These decisions are best left to the experts in each sport alongside medical professionals.
The bill may trigger a lawsuit and federal courts have overwhelmingly ruled in favor of transgender rights in recent years.
Many federal courts have upheld LGBTQ+ rights, including numerous rulings on Title IX protections for transgender students. Idaho recently passed a law restricting transgender student-athletes, and Chief Judge David Nye of the U.S. District Court of Idaho, who was nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed 100-0 by the U.S. Senate, ruled against it. There is also an injunction against West Virginia's law and pending lawsuits against similar bans in Tennessee, Florida, and more.
SB 83 targets some of Kentucky's most vulnerable kidsagain.
Beginning with "Bathroom Bills" several years ago, national organizations have prioritized different versions of legislation targeting transgender youth in dozens of states. Because of the difficulties and discrimination they face, more than half of transgender youth have seriously considered suicide, according to the Trevor Project's 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ+ Mental Health. Over two-thirds of LGBTQ+ youth said recent debates over state laws that target transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health, according to a 2022 Trevor Project poll. Legislation like SB 83 contributes to the climate of negative messages and exclusion transgender youth face.
Anti-Transgender Attacks As A Political Talking Point
Legislators in a record 34 states introduced 147 anti-transgender bills in 2021, focusing on discriminatory anti-equality measures to drive a wedge between their constituents and score short-term political points. In 2021, legislators in twelve states enacted anti-LGBTQ+ bills despite failing to provide examples of what exactly they were legislating against.
Merely introducing anti-transgender bills and peddling anti-transgender rhetoric has already had a damaging impact, leading to LGBTQ+ youth resources being surreptitiously removed from a government website, 11-year old kids literally having trouble sleeping, and a school district banning graphic novels with a transgender character after a parent's complaint. 2021 and 2020 were the deadliest and second deadliest years on record for trans & gender non-conforming people respectively, with the Human Rights Campaign tracking at least 50 violent deaths in 2021 alone. A new Trevor Project survey shows that a startling 85% of transgender or gender non-binary youth say their mental health has been negatively affected by these legislative attacks.
Anti-transgender content on social media is also a radicalizing issue all by itself— in large part due to transgender young people being among the most marginalized, voiceless, and defenseless communities in America and because right-wing arguments play on long-standing misogynistic, racist, and sexist tropes about gender roles.
Businesses, Advocacy Groups, and Athletes Oppose Anti-Trans Legislation
More than 220 major U.S. corporations have stood up and spoken out to oppose anti-transgender legislation being proposed in states across the country. Companies like Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, Airbnb, Dell, Dow, Google, IBM, Lyft, Marriott, Microsoft, Nike and Paypal have objected to anti-LGBTQ state legislation. Four of the largest U.S. food companies also condemned "dangerous, discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender and nonbinary people," and the Walton Family Foundation issued a statement expressing "alarm" at the trend of anti-transgender legislation that recently became law in Arkansas.
Many are rightly protective of the legacy of women's sports in this country, and a robust Title IX is central to that legacy. Importantly, advocates for women and girls in sports — such as the National Women's Law Center, the Women's Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports, and others — support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports. So do prominent female athletes including Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe, and Cheryl Reeve. That's because while there are real issues facing women's sports, including a lack of resources devoted to supporting them, transgender participation in athletics is not one of them.
The nation's leading child health and welfare groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1,000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ+ people, and transgender children in particular.
Nearly 550 college athletes have stood up to anti-transgender legislation by demanding the NCAA pull championships from states that have enacted anti-trans sports laws.
Trans Equality Is Popular Across All Demographics
The reality is that however sensational and polarizing this issue may seem, public opinion polling across the country shows strong support for trans-inclusive and pro-equality policies:
Recent PRRI data shows a large majority of Americans (82%) favor laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, and majorities of Republicans (67%), independents (85%), and Democrats (92%) favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.
A PBS/NPR/Marist poll states that 67% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, oppose the anti-transgender sports ban legislation proliferating across 30 states.
In a 10-swing-state poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group in 2020 showed:
At least 60% of Trump voters across each of the ten swing states say transgender people should be able to live freely and openly.
At least 87% of respondents across each of the ten swing states say transgender people should have equal access to medical care, with many states breaking 90% support.
When respondents were asked about how they prioritized the importance of banning transgender people from participating in sports as compared to other policy issues, the issue came in dead last, with between 1% and 3% prioritizing the issue.
Another poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group revealed that, with respect to transgender youth participation in sports, the public's strong inclination is on the side of fairness and equality for transgender student-athletes. 73% of voters agree that "sports are important in young people's lives. Young transgender people should be allowed opportunities to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them."