Kentucky Senate passes ban on older transgender athletes
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Senate passed a bill Wednesday to bar older transgender girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity.
The 27-8 vote followed an emotional plea from a lawmaker who shared her own family story and warned that the bill is hurtful because “you’re excluding these children.”
“What we are begging of people is understanding and grace,” said Democratic Sen. Karen Berg, the mother of a transgender son.
The bill — aimed at preventing older transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams — moves to the House next. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.
If the measure ultimately becomes law, Kentucky would join a growing number of Republican-dominated states adopting such a ban on transgender girls or women, though the bans have been challenged in several states as violations of federal law.
Kentucky senators amended the bill Wednesday to allow children in elementary school to play on teams that match their gender identity.
Republican Sen. Robby Mills, the bill’s lead sponsor, has focused on high school athletics, saying it would ensure that girls compete against other “biological females.”
“It would be crushing for a young lady to train her whole high school athletic career to have it end competing against a biological male in a state tournament or a state finals,” Mills said Wednesday.
Under the bill, a student’s gender would be determined by the “biological sex” indicated on the student’s certified birth certificate, Mills said.
Republican Sen. Max Wise, in supporting the bill, said he wished the measure was more broadly written to apply to college athletics in Kentucky.
Opponents contend the bill’s restrictions are unconstitutional.
In a Senate speech, Berg spoke of her experiences as the mother of a transgender son. She said her son explained to her “when he came out” that he was “the same kid.”
“That’s how my child explained to me that he hadn’t changed,” Berg said. “All he was doing was asking the world to see him the way he saw himself. Imagine what it is like, day in and day out, to go through the world and not have people recognize you for what you, inside, are.”
The bill could prevent transgender girls from being part of middle school teams that match their gender identity, she said.
“But more importantly, it makes them feel like they will not be included on purpose,” she said. “You’re excluding these children. And it goes to their hearts. And it hurts their parents’ souls.”
Opponents said the bill is aimed at a problem that doesn’t exist in Kentucky but would spark a costly court fight if it becomes law.
“We know if we pass this, it’s going to be litigated,” said Democratic Sen. David Yates. “Is that fiscally responsible? ... Should we pass this legislation before there’s a problem?”
Mills said the bill reflects concerns from parents across the state. He said the measure “thinks ahead” to prevent situations where older girls are unfairly competing against biological males.
The legislation is Senate Bill 83.