February 26, 2015

Senate committee passes amended transgender bill

Messenger, The (Madisonville, KY) - The Senate Education Committee has revisited a bill that would require transgender students to use bathrooms matching their biological sex.

"We didn't know that it was going to happen until about 30 seconds before it did," he continued. "When the bill's 
sponsor, Sen. C.B. Embry, came into the room, it was clear they were going to revote on the bill, and they did."

The "Kentucky Student Privacy Act" originally included language allowing students to sue their school $2,500 each time they found a person of the opposite biological gender in a bathroom or locker room.

The bill was amended prior to the committee vote Feb. 19, deleting that measure and its emergency provision.

"They did eliminate the bounty, because people made their voices heard," Hartman said. "They don't even know what they are trying to legislate right here. Is it an emergency or not? Can you sue the school or not?"

Embry filed a draft of the bill given to him by the Kentucky Family Foundation, he said in a previous report.

The bill was pieced together following a controversy at Atherton High School in Louisville, where a transgender student born male and identifying as female wanted to use the girls' bathrooms and locker rooms.

"(The Kentucky Family Foundation) received a number of contacts from parents (of students from Atherton High School) who are concerned about the issue and felt that it should be addressed," he said in the report.

"I think we should make an accommodation where transgender students are not put into a situation where they are causing other people to be uneasy," he continued. "Seems like common sense to have boys use the boys' restroom and girls use the girls' restroom."

Kent Ostrander, the executive director of the Family Foundation of Kentucky, said he is not surprised the bill passed. "Two of the committee members had been involved in medical emergencies the week before," he said. "The chairman recognized that there were members that wanted that bill, so he had it reheard."

In a statement released Monday evening, a coalition of Kentucky pro-LGBT groups noted that three senators, including two who voted against the bill Feb. 19, were missing from Monday's vote, according to a report from the Huffington Post.

"This bill gives local school districts all the latitude they need to deal fairly and responsibility with protection for all the students including transgenders," Ostrander said. "We think it is a good deal and that most parents want that."


If the bill passes through the Senate, it will most likely move to the House Education Committee next, according to Jordan Palmer, the president and founder of the Kentucky Equality Federation.

"I would say it has a very good chance of passing the committee, simply because Democrats can't afford to be soft on these issues, or they are going to continue to lose seats in the House," he said.

Palmer said the bill sends a "very negative message" to transgender students.

"It sends the message that there is something wrong with them, when in fact there is nothing wrong with them," he said. "I don't know what it's like to be born into a body that tells me I'm something else.

"At the same time, it is my job as a community member and a community leader to support and not to judge," he continued. "I don't understand it, but just because I don't understand it doesn't mean that I condemn it or that I'm afraid of it," he added. Conducting an unannounced revote on the bill was an "underhanded" move to keep opposition at bay, Palmer said.

"It will be very different in the house," he said. "The house will take a lot of public opinion and they will hear a lot of testimony, because Speaker (Greg) Stumbo will ensure that they do."

The Messenger was unable to contact Embry on Wednesday.

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