Republican lawmakers in the Kentucky state legislature passed one of the worst anti-trans bills in the country on Thursday through means that likely violated the state's public meetings law, experts say.
Senate Bill 150, which was tabled prior to this week, primarily targets transgender children.
The legislation bans transgender students from using restrooms that correspond with their gender and allows teachers and students to misgender trans students without repercussions. It also restricts educators from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with students of any grade — a provision that goes beyond Florida's infamous "Don't Say Gay" law.
The bill bans gender-affirming care for children and requires doctors to set a timeline for children who are receiving such care right now to detransition.
LGBTQ advocates condemned the law and the manner in which it passed the state House of Representatives on Thursday, as it was introduced with little to no notice.
A separate piece of anti-trans legislation that similarly targeted trans kids was tabled on Wednesday night. But Republican lawmakers revived SB 150 on Thursday morning, formally introducing the bill in a committee room where the microphones had been turned off while the House was breaking for lunch.
Discussion on the bill began just six minutes later, despite the fact that state law requires the public to be made aware of meetings 24 hours before they take place. The bill was so rushed that even the House clerk seemed unaware that it had been brought forward, as the clerk did not have access to a digital copy until after it advanced to the full House.
Although the bill's passage likely violated state public meetings laws, an expert on such rules has suggested that it's unlikely anything can be done, as the deciding body on determining whether such actions are improper or illegal is the state legislature itself.
Following committee passage and two hours of debate on the House floor, where nearly every Democratic lawmaker spoke out against the bill, the legislation passed by a vote of 75-22, mostly along party lines. The state Senate voted to support changes to the bill shortly after, and the legislation now advances to Gov. Andy Beshear's (D) desk.
Beshear will likely veto the bill, but because Republicans have a veto-proof majority in both legislative chambers, it will likely become law in a few weeks' time.
Several LGBTQ advocates spoke out against the passage of the bill. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky, for instance, described SB 150 as "the worst anti-trans bill in the nation."
"Legislators cannot erase transgender people from existence, and we will continue to fight for equal rights and equal protection under the law," Amber Duke, interim executive director of the organization, said in a statement on its website.
Kentucky Congressman Morgan McGarvey (D) condemned the bill on Twitter.
"This bill is so miserable, mean, and misinformed the Republicans had to sneak it through late in the session despite having supermajorities," he wrote.
Trangender activist and author Erin Reed said that the bill's "far-reaching provisions will result in lives lost in Kentucky," noting that "gender affirming care saves lives."
"Kentuckians must ask themselves," Reed said in a blog post, "if this is what they want from their legislature. Does 6-minute notice meetings held with no public notice in secretive fashion truly represent good legislation? Even those who agree with the bill should question the process in which it was passed."
Other activists urged LGBTQ people in the state not to lose hope.
"Trans people like me in Kentucky are scared, but we're also ready to fight back," said transgender activist Z! Haukeness, the national network director for the organization Showing Up for Racial Justice.
"What's giving me hope is watching trans people across my state stand up and fight," Haukeness wrote in a blog post, noting that young trans activists and organizations across Kentucky "are leading their neighbors to fight against the legislature's laws and hateful messages."
"They follow in the tradition of the Irish-American school teacher, Appalachian union organizer and freedom fighter, Mother Jones, who said, 'Mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living,'" Haukeness said.